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The Paw Paw Fruit Tree – a True American

Have you heard of the paw paw fruit tree?

The Pawpaw, Asimina triloba, is the largest edible wild fruit native to the USA and can be found growing wild in the southeastern states. Pawpaws grow best in moist bottomland, and well drained areas that are sunny or partly shaded.1)http://www.blossomnursery.com/pawpaw_HABITAT.html

The fruit is delicious, and reminiscent of a combination of banana and mango in flavor and texture.

When Can Pawpaw Trees be Planted?

Pawpaws can be grown from seeds, however, they’re not clones, so may not produce the same quality fruit as the original.

You can buy grafted pawpaw fruit tree cultivars that will retain identity of the parent. It’s usually recommended to buy two plant, preferably two different varieties. They’re usually sold and shipped at around 2 years old and can be planted in spring or fall.2)http://www.ncpawpaw.com/NC_PAW_PAW/Information_files/Pawpaw%20Planting%20Guide.pdf

Young plants should be planted in partial shade to full sun, the older they are. Pawpaw native habitat tends to be near river banks and in lowland areas at the end of the woods.

When do Pawpaws Bear Fruit?

Pawpaw begin flower and bear fruit in 4-8 years, depending on the growing conditions and care. However, grafted plants may flower as early as 2-3 years.

This should get you started, but your nursery or grower can tell you more about your specific plant, and of course all trees you buy should come with care instructions.3)http://www.pawpaw.kysu.edu/faq.htm#q16

Where to Buy Pawpaw Trees?

The challenge with growing most fruit trees is that they can take 2-8 years to fruit. That’s a long time to invest in a plant before knowing if the fruit will be any good. However, it just goes with the territory of growing fruit trees.

So go with reputable buyers; ask your local nursery, and if you purchase from Amazon, be sure to check the seller reviews as well as the product/plant reviews.

 

And of course there’s the Pawpaw song! Perhaps you remember it…?

The Paw Paw Song

Lyrics to the Pawpaw Song:

Put a Pawpaw in Your Pocket

Where, oh where is dear little Nellie?
Where, oh where is dear little Nellie?
Where, oh where is dear little Nellie?
Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch.

Pickin’ up pawpaws, puttin’ ’em in your pocket,
Pickin’ up pawpaws, puttin’ ’em in your pocket,
Pickin’ up pawpaws, puttin’ ’em in your pocket,
Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch.
–American Folk Song4)http://www.agr.georgia.gov/is-that-a-pawpaw-in-your-pocket.aspx

The sweet delicious pulp resembles that of a banana, a mango, and a twist of citrus
Image from SeriousEats.com

This scrumptious pawpaw image is from SeriousEats.com.5)http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/09/what-are-pawpaws-wild-fruit-midwest-how-to-prep-and-eat-pawpaws.html

Well, we kind of paid a visit to the pawpaw patch. We met a lot of nice folks, talked to some pawpaw growers, and tasted a little sampling of pawpaw recipes.

GardensAll recently attended the annual North Carolina Pawpaw Festival in nearby Winston-Salem. The event is sponsored and hosted by the NC Cooperative Extension Agency. There are lectures, displays, cooking demonstrations, plant sales, books, a long table of sample tasties all made from pawpaws, and fruit for sale.

But… you have to get there as soon as they open. We got there about 30 minutes after that and this year, all the fruit was sold out! We’re growing our own pawpaw trees going on a couple years now, but no fruit yet, so guess we’ll have to wait another year before having a chance to taste the creamy sweet fruits reminiscent of a cross between a mango and a banana.

Pawpaw in the wild near waterways. Image by GardensAll Facebook fan, Aaron Pangle

A collage of pawpaw aficionados converged to admire, celebrate, and learn about this smallish American fruit tree (Asiminia triloba), a staple food source dating back to the earliest inhabitants. The unique flavor of the ripe vaguely mango shaped fruit has been described as a cross between banana, mango, and a tang of citrus.

If, like us, you’re wondering why you’ve never see pawpaws in the grocery stores, it’s because it neither stores nor ships well. You might you might find some at you local veggie stands or Farmer’s Markets, but if you definitely want some, you’ll need to either grow your own, connect with someone who grows it, attend pawpaw festivals, or buy the value-added products like purees, jams, chutneys and, yes, of course, beer! Pawpaw fruit does freeze well, so peel it, slice it, bag it and freeze it.

You can freeze pawpawS to preserve it.

To freeze pawpaws, you need to peel it, slice it, bag it and freeze it.

Those who are keen to know more about pawpaws can easily access information from online resources as well as from books like Andrew Moore’s PAWPAW book.

Pawpaw Chef and Foodwriter, Sara Bir displays her wares.
IMG_6157
Food tasting tables were one of the main attractions. So many dishes, breads, and deserts using pawpaws.
IMG_6158
Yes! Even delicious ice cream!
IMG_6168
A friendly Michael McConkey from Edible Landscaping was on hand to offer his container trees along with great advice on how to grow them on.

One of the best ways to get familiar with pawpaws, is by attending a festival dedicated to the cultivation and use of this remarkable fruit tree. We’ve scouted a few to check out either this year or next. And of course, the very best way is to enjoy America’s largest native fruit down yonder, in the pawpaw patch (if you’re lucky enough to find one).

Pawpaw Festivals 

These festival pages may or may not be updated, but it will get you to the right place to find out more.

One of the best ways to get familiar with pawpaws, is by attending a festival dedicated to the cultivation and use of this remarkable fruit tree.
The sweet delicious pulp resembles that of a banana, a mango, and a twist of citrus

Meanwhile, if you want to join the very active Facebook conversation on Pawpaws on GardensAll Facebook, you can find one of those convos here:


Coleman Alderson

G. Coleman Alderson is an entrepreneur, land manager, investor, gardener, and author of the novel, Mountain Whispers: Days Without Sun. Coleman holds an MS from Penn State where his thesis centered on horticulture, park planning, design, and maintenance. He’s a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and a licensed building contractor for 27 years. “But nothing surpasses my 40 years of lessons from the field and garden. And in the garden, as in life, it’s always interesting because those lessons never end!” Coleman Alderson

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