Discover the Pawpaw Fruit: America’s Amazing (and Nearly Forgotten!) Fruit

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Pawpaw fruit cut open.

Chance are you’ve never heard of the pawpaw fruit, but if you live in the Eastern, Midwest and Southern regions in the U.S., this fruit tree is actually plentiful.

The Pawpaw (Latin name: Asimina Triloba) is the largest edible wild fruit native to the United States. It has a long history here in the U.S., but even though it has a very large growing area, it remains unknown to a lot of people. There are a lot of reasons, but the main is that it doesn’t grow well utilizing large fruit production methods, and it doesn’t ship well at all. That means that you won’t find the pawpaw fruit at the grocery store, but must seek it out at farmers markets,  extremely small orchard settings, forage for it, or grow it yourself. Although, all that may change if plant scientist Neal Peterson gets his way.

Peterson has been working for the last 35 years to make the pawpaw fruit grow better using commercialization methods. And whether you agree with his methods or not, he has bred the pawpaw to grow more uniformly, it is quite possible that the pawpaw fruit may end up on grocery store shelves. And if that’s the case, wouldn’t it be nice if you were ahead of the curve?

Unripe pawpaw fruit.

Image: Pawpaw via Shutterstock

What Does The Pawpaw Fruit Taste Like?

I will be honest, some love the taste and texture of the pawpaw, and others hate it. The taste is like a cross between a banana, an apple, and a mango. It’s sweet, but not cloying. The texture is what throws people off. When ripe the flesh of the pawpaw is soft, velvety and custardy. Some think this is great–and for others, the texture is just too weird.

How to Eat Pawpaw Fruit?

Pawpaws should be eaten when ripe.–when the green pawpaw begins to turn black (think like a banana does as it ripens) and begins to soften. When ripe, you can simply cut the pawpaw in half (lengthways) and scoop out the soft custardy flesh with a spoon. Do make sure to avoid the big, dark seeds, which are fairly easy to eat around. Pawpaws work well in homemade custards, sorbet, and can be substituted for bananas in many recipes. Pawpaw smoothie, anyone? Ripe pawpaws can also be sliced in half and frozen. Allow to them to thaw a little and then enjoy as an easy frozen treat.

When and Where Can You Find the Pawpaw Fruit?

Pawpaw season is short, only lasting a few weeks to a month or so. Look for pawpaws at local farmers markets in late August through September and early October. Don’t be afraid to ask around as well. It is likely there are pawpaws growing right around where you live, and you wouldn’t even know it!

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Image: Pawpaw via Shutterstock

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