The Pawpaw, known to botanists as Asimina triloba, is a small, tropical~looking tree, seldom taller than 25 feet. Grown in full sun, the Pawpaw tree develops a narrowly pyramidal shape with dense, drooping foliage down to the ground level. In the shade it grows tall, with a more open branching habit, horizontally held leaves, and few lower limbs. Shading for the first~year, and sometimes the second, is normally required, and it is for this reason that Pawpaws are almost always found in nature as an understory tree. Although the Pawpaw is capable of fruiting in the shade, optimum fruit yields are obtained in open exposure, with some protection from wind (on account of the large leaves). Plant at least two trees for fruit production, to ensure cross~pollination. Some Pawpaw patches never fruit, because all the trees are actually clonal root sprouts from one original tree. In such cases, the patch may be made to bear fruit by planting new trees in and around it, thus providing cross~pollination. Little Pawpaw trees coming up in a patch are usually root sprouts from larger trees, and do not have a sufficient root system of their own. This is why Pawpaw trees dug up in the wild rarely survive.
Q: My son-in-law gave my three daughters & me pawpaw trees after my husband passed away. (The grandkids always called him Paw-Paw) Mine was the only one that lived but I don’t know what to do with the pawpaws. When are they ready to pick?
A:Pawpaw fruit usually occurs in branch-end clusters that resemble a loose hand of bananas. They don’t all ripen at the same time. Individual fruits ripen through about a two-week period. The best indication of ripeness is when the flesh yields slightly when pressed, much like a ripe peach. Pawpaws usually ripen from mid-August into October.
The soft flesh combined with a rich, fruity fragrance signals ripeness. Additionally, some fruits may turn yellowish-green. Ripe pawpaws have a 2-day shelf life before becoming overripe, when they develop brown blotches.
Ripe pawpaws can be refrigerated so fruits that would have lasted only two days will last four or five days. Fruits that are not quite ripe can be picked, refrigerated for about two weeks and then put at room temperature to complete ripening. If the fruit are picked too early, they don’t ripen successfully.
- When to Pick Pawpaw Fruit Video
- Peterson Pawpaws
- How to eat and process pawpaw fruit
- Pawpaw Benefits: Pawpaw Fruit Ideas And Uses
- What to Do With Pawpaws
- Pawpaw Fruit Ideas
- This Once-Obscure Fruit Is On Its Way To Becoming PawPaw-Pawpular
When to Pick Pawpaw Fruit Video
Your browser does not support HTML5 video.
Felix takes a look at ripened Pawpaw fruit and discusses the factors affecting its size, the time of picking, the reasons that make it commercially unfit but ideal for the home garden.
Hello again, this is Felix with Gurney’s and we’re at the research farm looking at Pawpaw, the fruit and went to pick it. We have some set here right now, it’s October, early October, ripening can happen anywhere from early September to end of October. It just depends on where you’re growing and again what cultivar you have. This fruit here is nice and green, it’s starting to get a little bit yellow, which is an indicator, and then also it’s got a slight give. I would leave this fruit on for another five days or so and then pick it. Maybe let it after ripen at the kitchen table a little bit, so it gets nice and soft. The interior needs to be at the consistency of custard. It’s a soft pulpy interior which we’ll look at here in a little bit, and so the softer that fruit can be more, sugar development you’ll have. It’ll be sweeter and just better quality over around. Another thing to point out about the fruit is that it’ll set, this stem here is where there was a flower at the end, and the fruit has set on that stem end. You can have clusters of two like you have next to this one and up to eight fruit per flower cluster, which is nice, but generally the more set you have per flower cluster, the smaller the fruit is in general. So what we’re looking at here is one of the components of Pawpaws, it’s important, that we’re looking at at Gurney’s is how many fruit set per cluster or per flower. Here’s an example of two, you can look at the stem here. This stem had a flower at the end of it and we have two fruit setting. We have one here, you can have as many as eight. Generally the more fruit you have setting per flower cluster, the smaller the fruit is. Not always, but generally that’s a good rule. So what we’re looking for is single fruit per flower, where the fruit can get bigger. This isn’t an example, but we have some where you get much larger fruit per single cluster. The other component that’s important is that where this is attached, if you harvest this one first and that happens where you’ll have nice ripeness there, and this one needs to hang a little longer, you run the risk of tearing the skin on the Pawpaw which reduces its shelf life for you. And so by having a single, you can cut the stem and it’s nice and sealed and you have a little longer shelf life. That’s another issue with the Pawpaw, is that the reason they’re not commercial or available in the grocery stores, they have a very limited shelf life. They’ll hold at the best conditions for maybe four weeks, maybe six. And so the grocery store can’t handle this fruit and get it in there and keep it. And so this is a wonderful home owner variety as a result, and really that’s the only way you’re going to get good quality Pawpaws is to grow them yourself.
Pawpaw fruit is climacteric — a wide class of fruits that includes apple and peach. In the course of ripening, climacteric fruits evolve carbon dioxide, water vapor, and ethylene, a plant hormone that promotes ripening. Pawpaws release large quantities of ethylene when ripening. When they are ripe, pawpaw fruits naturally fall from the tree. Pawpaws may be handpicked from the tree slightly under-ripe and still proceed to finish ripen normally. If picked too early, they will not finish ripening properly or at all. The signs of ripeness are subtle and not easy to discern. Visual clues are few or lacking altogether. In some cultivars the skin may turn from green to a yellowish-green, although this depends on the season and weather. A more dependable sign is a slight softening of the fruit, similar to peaches.
Pawpaw fruits are highly perishable, comparable to raspberries. They have an active metabolism and high rate of respiration. Pawpaws refrigerate well at standard refrigerator temperature. They may be stored that way for about a week if they are fully ripe. If they are underripe they may be stored for almost 3 weeks and then removed to room temperatures and finished ripening. Fully ripened fruit can only hold for 2 to 3 days at room temperature. They are soft and easily bruised. As the fruit goes from ripe to overripe, the skin develops brown blotches and spots and gradually darkens to an overall brown and black. In the process the flavor deepens, developing caramel tones. Some people prefer their pawpaws this way. And some swear it is the only way to eat pawpaws.
How to eat and process pawpaw fruit
Tyrant Farms is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more 89shares
Find out how to eat a fresh pawpaw or process pawpaw fruit for long-term storage in your freezer.
Are you a first-timer who’s been lucky enough to get your hands on a pawpaw fruit (Asimina triloba), North America’s largest — and arguably tastiest — native fruit? Are you now wondering how to eat this strange new fruit?
Bite into it like an apple? Peel it?
Or are you a forager or orchard gardener with a huge haul of pawpaw fruit? Now you’re trying to figure out how to efficiently get all that delicious pawpaw fruit separated from the skin and seeds so you can store pawpaw in your freezer for later use (e.g. “process pawpaw fruit”).
Whichever describes your predicament, you’ll find the answers to your questions in this article!
Pawpaw perfection! A ripe pawpaw, cut in half. The taste is like a mango-banana-persimmon.
Pawpaws are a perennial fruit tree that made our top-5 fruit & nut tree list for our Ag zone, 7b. That top-5 list was based on three primary criteria: quality of the fruit/nut produced (nutrition + flavor), low maintenance, and high yield.
We currently have 4 fruit-producing pawpaw trees and 10 more saplings that will be producing in the next 2-3 years. This year, our four fruit-bearing trees produced more pawpaws than we could eat fresh, despite our best efforts to consume them. The Tyrant and I ate 3-5 pawpaw fruits each day and even had some help from our family, but we still couldn’t keep up with all the fruit that our pawpaw trees produced.
Pawpaw harvesting and storage
On that note, a couple of pawpaw harvesting and storage tips:
For best flavor, don’t pick unripe pawpaws off of the tree. They don’t seem to ripen up nearly as well if picked early. The best, most flavorful pawpaws are the ones that have just fallen off the tree. If you happen to find a pawpaw that’s still barely clinging to the stem on the tree, it’s ok to pick those as well, but if it doesn’t yield with just a gentle nudge, leave that fruit on the tree to ripen further.
An almost ripe cluster of pawpaws. For optimal flavor, leave the pawpaws on the tree until they’re ripe enough to fall off.
Storing pawpaw fruit.
The primary reasons pawpaws have NOT been commercially successful/popular is because:
a) they don’t seem to ripen to ideal flavor if picked unripe, and
b) they don’t store well.
Trust us, pawpaw’s absence from grocery store shelves has nothing to do with their flavor, because they are out-of-this-world delicious. Pawpaws taste like a combination of mango, banana, and persimmon; like something you’d expect to find at a tropical fruit market in Costa Rica, not a forest trail in the Appalachian Mountains.
A perfect pawpaw fruit, just fallen from the tree. A ripe pawpaw is slightly soft to the touch.
Once a ripe pawpaw is off the tree, you have about 2-3 days to eat it if it’s stored at room temperature. When we get a lot of pawpaw fruit coming off of our trees, we put them into ziplock bags, then store them in the produce drawer in our fridge. In the fridge, pawpaws will last for up to one week.
When gardening or foraging, we sometimes have what we refer to as a “good problem.” A huge haul of food that we can’t possibly eat before it goes bad.
This year, we had a “good problem” with our pawpaw trees. Even though they’re relatively young (6-7 years old), we were getting 5-10 pounds of pawpaw fruit per day.
Piles of pawpaws = good problem. However, it’s important to make sure you process them for later use before they go bad. A wasted pawpaw is a travesty.
The bags of pawpaws being stored in our fridge continued to swell, even though we ate as many of them as we could each day. We soon realized we needed to figure out how to process pawpaw fruit for long-term storage in our freezer.
How to eat pawpaw fruit:
The thin, bitter skin and large hard seeds of pawpaws are inedible, so you want to avoid eating them. To eat a fresh pawpaw fruit, follow these simple instructions:
1. Wash the fruit surface gently but thoroughly.
Your pawpaw fruit has likely been on the ground, so to avoid the possibility of ingesting an unwanted dose of pathogenic microbes left behind by another critter, give each pawpaw fruit a gentle but thorough washing. A sponge works great. Again, be gentle and try not to tear the pawpaws’ skin, because that will make it more difficult to eat or process.
2. Cut the fruit in half.
Using a knife, make an incision all the way around the fruit. Since the size and shape of pawpaw fruits can vary greatly, you be the judge of whether you want to cut it long ways or more like a grapefruit (if it’s a round rather than oblong pawpaw).
Your knife will almost certainly encounter the large hard seeds inside, so don’t try to cut through the seeds. Just work around them and keep going. Once your knife is back to the starting point, twist the pawpaw with both hands, pulling it apart into two even halves.
3. Spoon out the fruit, spit out the seeds.
Hold half of a pawpaw fruit in your hand at a time. Using a small spoon, scoop out and eat spoonfulls of soft, delicious pawpaw fruit. The texture is creamy and smooth.
The inedible seeds are also covered with fruit. You’ll want to spoon them into your mouth, and with equal parts nibbling and slurping, you should be able to produce a clean pawpaw seed within a matter of a few seconds. Plant these seeds and in ~5 years, you’ll have a new fruit-producing pawpaw tree!
This is what a pawpaw seed looks like. These saplings in the pots are two year old pawpaw trees grown from seed. Plop your seeds about an inch deep in potting soil, let them overwinter outside (they need cold-stratification), and they’ll germinate in the spring. For the first three years, keep them out of full sun, since the young plants actually prefer part shade. Plant 3 year old plants in a full-sun spot and at year 5 you should start getting fruit!
Finally, continue to scrape away at the pawpaw fruit with your spoon until there is nothing remaining but a thin skin to put into your compost.
How to process pawpaw fruit for freezer storage:
When you have a large quantity of pawpaw fruit that you need to process and freeze, here’s how to do it:
1.-2. Wash then cut the pawpaw fruit in half as per the above instructions.
How to process pawpaw fruit: getting started. Have knives, spoons, and a large bowl at the ready.
3. Scrape the pulp away from the seed with a knife.
The fruit pulp around the seeds will scrape right away with a knife. Put each half of pawpaw on a plate and scrape away at each exposed seed.
These pawpaw seeds were covered with pulp, but they’ve now been scraped with a knife and ready to be pulled out.
Pretty soon, you’ll have half of a pawpaw with no seeds inside.
4. Remove the fruit, leave the skin.
Using a spoon, scrape out all the fruit.
Yummy pawpaw fruit, seeds removed. Ready to be scooped out by spoon.
The only thing that should be left after you’re done with the spoon is a thin layer of skin.
It’s kind of hard to tell from this photo, but there’s only a thin layer of skin left here. Remember, the skin is bitter so you only want to scrape out the fruit, leaving the skin behind.
5. Purée until smooth.
Once you’ve gone through the above steps with each of your pawpaws, you should have a large bowl of chunky pawpaw pulp. Sure, you can put this in the freezer as-is, but if you want to use your frozen pawpaw for puddings, sorbet (our pawpaw sorbet recipe is downright sublime), breads, etc, then chunks of pawpaw fruit aren’t going to work.
Chunks of pawpaw fruit pulp, separated from the seeds and skin.
This is where we use one of our absolute favorite kitchen tools: our Bamix immersion blender. It’s so much easier to use and clean than a food processor when you’re making soups, shakes, puddings, sauces, etc..
Our Bamix immersion blender turning chunks of pawpaw pulp into smooth, creamy deliciousness.
Purée your pawpaw fruit until its silky smooth using an immersion blender or a food processor.
Processed pawpaw fruit ready to go into freezer bags.
6. Scoop into labeled freezer bags and freeze.
Almost done! Want to make “future you” happy? Measure out how much pawpaw purée you’re scooping into each ziplock freezer bag, then write that amount on the freezer bag with a sharpie pen before you put it in your freezer.
1/2 cup and 1 cup freezer bags of pawpaw, processed and ready for “future us.” Future us will be very happy.
When future you goes looking for 1/2 cup or 1 cup of pawpaw purée, they’ll be very happy with how well you planned ahead!
Now you know how to eat and process pawpaw fruit. We hope you enjoy this delicious native fruit as much as we do!
Pawpaw: from flower to ripe fruit. In our area, pawpaw flowers come out in early March and the ripe fruit is ready to harvest for 2-3 weeks, from late August through mid-September.
If you want to order pawpaw trees for your garden, here’s a good source. Note that pawpaws are NOT self-fertile. So you’ll want to order at least two pawpaw trees and plant them relatively close together (no more than 20 yards apart) to get good fruit production.
Other Tyrant Farms pawpaw articles you may enjoy:
- How to grow pawpaw trees
- Tyrant Farms’ pawpaw passionfruit sorbet recipe
Please be sure to subscribe to Tyrant Farms to see what’s in-season out in nature, have fresh seasonal recipes delivered to your inbox and get helpful organic/permaculture gardening & duck keeping tips.
Pawpaw Benefits: Pawpaw Fruit Ideas And Uses
Incorporating fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet can help reduce the use of some prescription drugs and add a healthy note to your beauty regimen. Most natural foods have hidden benefits beyond the obvious nutrient, fiber, amino acid, mineral and healthy fat components. Many foods are also a part of traditional medicinal preparations and even used in building and as cordage. Pawpaw fruits are not exception. There are numerous uses for pawpaw fruit as a food and beyond.
What to Do With Pawpaws
You may be new to pawpaw fruit or have a pawpaw tree in your backyard. Either way, pawpaw benefits transcend the culinary and their applications have the ability to skyrocket health. The most common pawpaw fruit uses are in recipes where their custard-like texture and mild tropical flavor enhance beverages, candies, pies, puddings, cocktails, and other dishes. The internet is filled with pawpaw fruit ideas, recipes of which your doctor would approve and topical remedies that can save your pocketbook.
Pawpaw is a native North American tree. In fact, it is the largest edible fruit indigenous to the United States, found in 26 states. Pawpaws are often simply eaten raw, picked fresh from the tree and eaten out of hand. But there are many other uses for pawpaw fruit.
The fruit may help metabolize other food you eat and is rich in riboflavin, thiamine, B-6, niacin and folate. It is also rich in Vitamin C and other antioxidants. Vitamin C keeps your immune system in tip-top shape while helping the body absorb other nutrients such as iron and calcium. The minerals represented in a pawpaw encompass potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron.
When deciding what to do with pawpaws, consider all the nutritional benefits and pack in as many of these snack-sized fruits as you can during the season.
Pawpaw Fruit Ideas
Outside of eating these powerful fruits raw, there are many other pawpaw fruit uses. The flavor resembles mild bananas and is a useful addition to baked goods, puddings, ice cream, salad and even in liquors. It was traditionally mashed and made into cakes or dried to preserve it. Make jams, smoothies, quick breads and pastries.
The green pawpaw is an excellent substitute for squash or cherimoya. A new and exciting use for the fruit in its most common growing regions is in craft beer. One of the unexpected pawpaw fruit uses is as a cough syrup and expectorant. It harnesses the pawpaw benefits found in its high vitamin content and antioxidant properties.
Pawpaws are rather delicate and do not last long, either on the counter or in the refrigerator. Ripe pawpaws can easily be frozen for later use, as their refrigerator life is only a few days. To prepare them, peel the fruit and then smash the pulp and seeds through a food mill or sieve. The pulp remains and may be used immediately, refrigerated for a couple of days or frozen for another time.
Frozen puree can be used just as you would applesauce. Cooking can destroy some of the flavor, so using a quick flash sear is the best method of applying heat if using in cooked recipes. There are many pawpaw fruit uses in the dessert category but don’t forget their high nutrient value and sweet, tropical flavor when eaten fresh from the tree.
This Once-Obscure Fruit Is On Its Way To Becoming PawPaw-Pawpular
Heard of the pawpaw? It’s a custard-like fruit native to North America — and it’s growing in popularity. Here, a few pawpaw varieties from the Deep Run Pawpaw Orchard in Maryland. Tyrone Turner/WAMU hide caption
toggle caption Tyrone Turner/WAMU
In the Deep Run Pawpaw Orchard outside of Westminster, Md., Donna Davis is showing me how the pros eat a pawpaw.
She jams her thumbs into the fruit’s soft green skin and splits it open, innards oozing.
“Just suck out the flesh,” she instructs, slurping up the yellow meat. “They can a cross between maybe a mango and a banana. Some people taste little hints of pineapple.”
She hands me a chunk — and mmm. It’s sweet and custardy. I taste banana pudding.
Davis pauses, makes a funny face and spits out a mahogany pawpaw seed the size of a gigante bean. And just like that, it feels like autumn has arrived.
September is pawpaw season in a large swath of the U.S. This month, Davis and her husband, Jim, are plucking the mango-sized treats from trees in their orchard, depositing them carefully into bins so as not to damage the pawpaw’s squishy flesh. They sell them to farmers markets and online gourmet stores, who advertise them as delicacies and price them at nearly $15 a pound.
Yet plenty of people have no clue the pawpaw exists. The Davises are among a handful of local pawpaw growers. You won’t find the fruits in most grocery stores, even though they’re native to North America. American Indians harvested them, and it’s been said George Washington liked to eat chilled pawpaw for dessert. But much of the pawpaw’s natural habitat was destroyed by development, and they’re not that easy to cultivate. They need slightly acidic, well-drained soil, and harvesting them is labor-intensive.
But the Davises, who planted their trees in the ’90s, gladly accepted the challenge.
“They said it couldn’t be done,” Davis says, laughing. “I think that’s why my husband started .”
Since the Davises began harvesting, interest in the pawpaw has grown. The locavore food movement has embraced the fruit. Now there are restaurants whipping up pawpaw pie and pawpaw gelato, and local breweries are starting to make pawpaw beer.
So while the fruit already had a long list of nicknames — Quaker Delight, the Hillbilly Mango — now it’s earned another one: the hipster banana.
The inside of a pawpaw is soft and gooey. Tyrone Turner/WAMU hide caption
toggle caption Tyrone Turner/WAMU
The inside of a pawpaw is soft and gooey.
At the fifth annual Pawpaw Festival last weekend in Montgomery County, Md., it’s clear the pawpaw craze is well underway.
Karen Holt is standing in line at the Meadowside Nature Center in Derwood, Md., waiting to pay $50 for 10 large pawpaws. She drove over from a nearby county — and arrived two hours early, just in case.
“I got my pawpaws!” she says, clutching paper bags brimming with the soft fruit.
Holt says she plans to make pawpaw pie, but most people seem content to just eat them right out of their skin. Parents queue up at the tasting table, tipping paper cups filled with pawpaw into their kids’ mouths. Grace Ruiz, who’s here with her mom, says they taste like peaches.
Others describe the flavor almost like wine. Some said they detect notes of vanilla, caramel and coconut. One attendee compared the taste to bread flour.
Tiny Desk Kitchen: Ever Had A Pawpaw?
Credit: Allison Aubrey, Claire O’Neill, Maggie Starbard
Just an hour into the festival, most pawpaws are sold out. But some attendees are walking out with pawpaw trees. Arthur Rypinski is one of the buyers.
“I’m gonna plant it in my backyard, where we have kind of a swampy, shady spot,” he says, contrary to pawpaw growers’ advice. He admits he doesn’t have much of a green thumb. He calls himself a “slayer of plants.”
“I will try not to ,” he says, “but the record is not good.”
Behind him, other pawpaw hobbyists wait to pay for their trees. Fortunately, the pawpaw’s future isn’t in his hands alone.
This story comes to us from member station WAMU in Washington, D.C.