Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - Stalking the Wild Pawpaw

My pawpaw hunt has ended with success.

For the first time in nearly 30 years, I've tasted one.  But first, let's back up a little.

Pawpaws are a wild fruit, about the size of your fist,  They grow on trees and are pollinated by flies - not bees. The trees are not bothered by pests. The taste is hard to describe - many people describe it as a cross between a banana and a mango. Back 30 years ago, I had never had a mango, so my memory described it as a "banana on steroids".  They are highly nutritious, and high in antioxidants.

I first encountered the pawpaw growing wild in rural Northwest Arkansas, in the early 1980's.  I saw a pawpaw tree (above) growing in downtown Fayetteville, Arkansas in August, during my first visit since leaving in 1986, and those pawpaw memories came flying back.

Thomas Jefferson grew pawpaws at Monticello, and they grow wild in the Washington, DC area. 

You can also buy cultivated varieties, some of which would be hardy where I live in upstate New York. 

A lot of this is the work of one man, and the story of the pawpaw is getting to be quite fascinating..

And then I read a local farmers market report saying pawpaws were being sold, in limited quantities, right here in the Binghamton area.

Last Saturday, my spouse and I walked into our localvore store, Old Barn Hollow (in walking distance of downtown Binghamton) and this sight greeted us:

They had been supplied by a man in Binghamton who had a pawpaw tree, but this was his final harvest for the year.  So, we bought one of the smaller ones to try out.  As I recalled, I wasn't that crazy about the taste. But, tastes change with age. Maybe my palette had matured.
These fruits need to be soft and more brownish before you eat them, so we let it sit a few days.  We could have let it sit another day or so, but the fruit flies had discovered it.  So, it was time to test our pawpaw out.

This is the pawpaw, cut open.  The seeds are not edible, as far as I know.

We took the soft flesch and scooped it out of the skin, and ate it just like that.

Verdict: I still think they taste like a banana on steroids.  I still tasted the slightly unpleasant undertone, but it wouldn't prevent me from eating it.  It would be great baked into a pie, or even blended into a smoothie with strawberries.  So yes, I would eat one again, especially if it was one of a number of ingredients in a dessert.

Now as to those seeds - yes, we are going to try to germinate them.  More on that another time.

So, I really didn't have to stalk the wild pawpaw-but I would still love to find a wild pawpaw tree I could get fruit from.

Now if I could only find the wild persimmons I still remember from Arkansas.....


  1. LOL I still can't quite work out whether you liked the bananas on steroids!

  2. I put an extra line into the post to make it clearer. Yes, I would eat them again. It still has the slightly unpleasant taste but there was enough enjoyable about my 1/2 pawpaw that I would eat one again.

  3. Tee hee!
    A local nursery (Oregon) offers Pawpaws, & has made similar comments ... what a fun adventure!

    1. I am going to see if the seeds germinate, but our small urban plot wouldn't be big enough. I may need to donate the seeds to someone else locally.

  4. I've seen paw paw in garden catalogs. But I don't know if they would grow up here in North Idaho.

    Thanks for stopping by and coffee is on

    1. On paper, they wouldn't (I think your USDA zones range from 2 to 3). However, don't underestimate the power of microclimes. If you have a pocket on your land which is sheltered, you may be able to do it.

  5. I agree, it is a strange taste, but I kind of like it and it is delicious in a fruit salad...

    1. It may do well blended with other tastes. It's worth a try if I can find any next year.

  6. Alana,
    I'd love to hear if your seeds germinate and if you're successful growing a pawpaw tree! What zone are you in there?

    1. We are zone 5b. What I'd really like to try to do (maybe in my retirement) is grow a crepe myrtle, or even a camellia, at our house.. Trying those, I suspect, would be a lost cause, but why not? The major problem with pawpaws, I think, would be lack of space. I understand they are not self-fertile although they have perfect flowers.

  7. Replies
    1. Yes, don't they - they sure don't smell like baked potatoes, though!!


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