The pawpaw might be the last seasonal fruit left. We’re used to finding strawberries and tomatoes in December shipped from warmer climates, but the pawpaw is only around for a short time. It’s a relatively unknown native fruit that’s been enjoyed for centuries by indigenous Americans, settlers, early leaders and now a new crop of home gardeners. Pawpaws can’t be picked early and don’t store well, that’s why they are rarely if ever seen in stores.
I planted my trees nearly 20 years ago after being intrigued by a description in a nursery catalog. Knowing nothing about the fruit I took a leap of faith planting two seedlings. It took years until the trees set fruit, but when they did, I fell in love with the creamy texture and unique flavor of the pawpaw. They have a custard like flesh that’s often described as a cross between a mango and a banana. Whatever the taste is, it’s wonderful in my opinion.
Two trees are needed for pollination, the nondescript purple flowers attract flies to move the pollen, appearing in spring. There are stories of growers hanging dead animals in the trees to attract pollinators. I’ve never done that as they have set fruit pretty well over the years. Some seasons are better than others, but that’s just like any other fruit tree.
Pawpaws love to grow along river banks, and are said to produce the most fruit in full sun. Mine grow as under story trees in a dry forest of oaks. The trees send up suckers from the base which will also put on fruit. After a decade or so, it’s a good idea to add a couple more trees with different genetics to help with fruit production.
Today I’m enjoying the last pawpaw from my trees. It’s been in the fridge for two weeks, is overripe, but that just sweetens the flesh. I’m slowly savoring every bite, knowing I won’t taste another until next fall.
Here’s more information about growing the pawpaw.
Tree Pittsburgh is growing lots of pawpaw trees. Check out their site to see how to purchase them.
Stark Bros. sell the trees online.
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