What does a paw paw fruit look like?

What Is a Pawpaw, and Why Is It So Magical?

Ah, mid-September in Pennsylvania—apple trees are popping with ripe red and green and yellow fruit, late tomatoes are prime for picking, and pumpkins are getting close. And, farmers are also starting to harvest another crop: the pawpaw. And while its bright flavor might remind you of something tropical—it tastes like a cross between mango and banana—it’s actually indigenous to North America. The oblong, green fruit has been around for hundreds of years, growing in swaths of the Mid-Atlantic, South, and Midwest. They were cultivated by Native Americans, and, allegedly, George Washington loved eating them for dessert, chilled. So then why have so many people never heard of a pawpaw?

Image zoom db_beyer/Getty Images

It’s not a huge surprise, says Nina Berryman, the farms manager for Weavers Way, Philadelphia’s largest food co-op and the only one with its own farm. She often hears people, even life-long Pennsylvanians, ask what it is.

“It’s so ironic, because it’s one of the few native fruits that we grow for food on our farm,” she says. Persimmons, kiwiberries, blackberries, and Asian pears also grow on the farm, but none are native. Apples grow in orchards all over the state, but also aren’t originally from North America—they’re native to Asia and were brought to the U.S. by European colonists.

Berryman grew up in Vermont, where the climate was too cold to grow pawpaws. She learned about them when she started working at Weavers Way over a decade ago, and the Philadelphia Orchard Project, a non-profit that supports orchard design and plant sourcing for community groups, suggested she plant some. The small, shrubby trees have long, broad leaves, purple flowers in the spring, and usually, in Pennsylvania, are ripe in September. Inside the greenish-yellow exterior, the pale yellow flesh is soft and custard-y, with fat, nickel-sized seeds.

According to the farmer, there’s a simple reason why the pawpaw isn’t as ubiquitous as the apple, one that has nothing to do with its folksy name. “It just doesn’t travel well, so it doesn’t fit well into our conventional, large-scale agricultural system that ships food across the country, and across the globe,” she says. Like heirloom tomatoes, the fragile fruit is picked when it’s soft and ripe, so will typically only be found in farmers’ markets.

Image zoom hawk111/Getty Images

And while they may not have found their way into mainstream supermarkets, chefs who have access to the fruit are using it in delicious ways. At Dos Urban Cantina in Chicago, James Beard Award-nominated pastry chef Jennifer Enyart uses pawpaws in desserts like her steamed pawpaw pudding cake, served with candied green mango and lychee, and pawpaw flan with caramelized baby bananas. Also in Chicago, New American restaurant Daisies adds the fruit to their Sun Is Coming cocktail—pawpaw liqueur mixed with rum, lemon honey and ginger kombucha. At Laurel, chef Nicholas Elmi’s intimate restaurant in South Philadelphia, the tasting menu features a tiny scoop of pawpaw ice cream right before the dessert course.

Elmi gets his fruit from The Field’s Edge Research Farm in Lancaster. In the fall, they all come at once—within a week his kitchen is processing 300 pounds of pawpaw. (The chef says to break them down, they split the fruit in half, then push it through a sheet tray rack, which catches the giant seeds and filters the flesh to the other side.)

The purée is transformed into treats like pawpaw marshmallows and the ice cream, Philadelphia-style (ie, no eggs), with cream, milk, and sugar, and the pectin from the pawpaw acting as a thickener. “We’re always trying to push ourselves creatively, and introduce people to ingredients they may not have tried before,” says the chef. “Plus, with pawpaws, they’re local and abundant.”

For farmer Nina Berryman’s part, she prefers her pawpaws served simply. “I think the best way to eat them is to cut them open and eat them with a spoon, like an avocado.”

Though pretty popular, avocados are not, in fact, indigenous to Pennsylvania.

What is the Difference between Papaya and Papaw? – 2 summaries

Source: 30 bananas a day.com

Reply by Peter on November 3, 2012 at 6:25pm

It is a little confusing for Australian consumers. There is a distinction in Australia between the two even though they both are known as the species papaya Carica.

To make things easier for consumers the agreed understanding in the Australian industry is that the red-fleshed sweeter fruit is called red papaya, while the yellow-fleshed fruit is called yellow papaw.

Papayas are oval shaped like a rugby or AFL football. The flesh should be pink or red when ripe. I consume them when they are blemished and soft. There are no GM papayas in Australia. All the papayas and paws paws sold in Australia are grown in Australia. Paws paws are generally shaped more like a soccer ball.

American pawpaw (note the different spelling) on the other hand is an entirely different fruit not related to the tropical Carica papaya from which Australian red papaya and yellow papaw come. American pawpaw is also known as ‘poor man’s banana’ and is the fruit of the Asimina triloba tree.

To complicate things further, there’s also green papaya, which is either red papaya or yellow papaw picked green. Green papaya is a sought after ingredient in Asian cuisine and is eaten as a vegetable.

I much prefer papayas. In fact I have a papaya tree in my front garden and this season I have harvested about 60 papayas.

Here are some of the papayas I harvested earlier this year.

Source: funtrivia.com

There is a distinct difference between the paw paw and papaya, being:

Paw paw: yellow flesh and tends to be a larger fruit

Papaya: Orange to red flesh and usually a smaller oval or pear shaped fruit


Consumers have long been confused about the difference between these fruit and the fact is that while they are the same species Carica papaya, the fruit known as papaya looks and tastes quite different to the fruit known as papaw.

To make things easier for consumers the agreed understanding in the Australian industry is that the red-fleshed sweeter fruit is called red papaya, while the yellow-fleshed fruit is called yellow papaw.

American pawpaw (note the different spelling) on the other hand is an entirely different fruit not related to the tropical Carica papaya from which Australian red papaya and yellow papaw come. American pawpaw is also known as ‘poor man’s banana’ and is the fruit of the Asimina triloba tree.

To complicate things further, there’s also green papaya, which is either red papaya or yellow papaw picked green. Green papaya is a sought after ingredient in Asian cuisine and is eaten as a vegetable.


you might be interested:

1 how to choose non- GMO Papaya

2 GMO contamination of Papaw in Hawaii

3 Widespread GMO Contamination of Papayas in Hawaii

4 GE Papaya Causing Plenty Problems For Hawai’i

5 Papaya Australia Industry

PDF downloads

1 Growing Pawpaws by C.W. Benson and M. Poffley, formerly Horticulture Division, Darwin

2 The Biology of Carica papaya L. (papaya, papaw, paw paw) published by Australian Government

Carica Papaya (Papaya or Papaw)

Source: eol.org

Carica papaya, papaya is a giant herbaceous plant–resembling a tree but not woody–in the Caricaceae (papaya family) that originated in Central America and is now grown in tropical areas world-wide for its large, sweet, melon-like fruits. The name “papaya” also refers to the fruit of other Carica species, including C. pubescens and C. stipulata, and their various hybrids.

Sometimes called paw-paw, although that name more typically applies to the species Asimona triloba, the papaya plant has a hollow, green or purple stem, and can grow 1.8 to 3 m (6 to 10 ft) in a year, eventually reaching heights of 6 to 9 m (20 to 30 ft). The long-petioled (stemmed) leaves, which may be 30 to 105 cm long (1 to 3.5 ft) and 30 to 60 cm (1 to 2 ft) wide, are deeply divided into 5 to 9 main segments, which are further lobed. Both leaves and stems contain large amounts of white, milky latex.

Papaya plants are generally dioecious, with short-stalked female (pistillate) flowers, which are 5-petalled, waxy, and white, borne on separate plants from the male (staminate) flowers, which are borne on long panicles (up to 1.8 m or 6 ft). Plants may also bear hermaphroditic or perfect flowers, which have both pistils and stamens, or they may be monoecious, bearing separate male and female flowers on the same plant. The fruit that develops varies in shape depending on the flower type. Fruits from female flowers are usually oval to round and smaller than the fruits that develop from perfect flowers, which are cylindrical or club-shaped, up to 50 cm (20 in) long and 20 cm (8 in) wide. The fruits, which can weigh up to 9 kg (20 lbs)—although common commercial cultivars generally produce fruits that weigh 0.5 to 2.25 kg (1 to 5 lbs)—and have a thin but tough waxy skin. Green fruits contain latex, which disappears as the fruit ripens to light or dark yellow. The flesh of the fruit varies from yellow to orange to red, and is thick and juicy, with a central cavity filled with many small black seeds.

Source: Daley’s Fruit

Pawpaw – Grafted Southern Red

This grafted Paw Paw is dwarfed in size and the fruit is produced low to the ground. It is possible to have fruit within 4 months rather then taking 18 months from a seedling.

Pawpaw – Hawain Bisexual Yellow

Heavy cropping papaya with small to medium sized sweet fruit. This Papaya selection is a true bisexual, consistently producing uniform bisexual plants. Grown on the Gold Coast from fruit brought back from Guam after 2nd World War by Jim Curren

Pawpaw – Red RD6 Hybrid

This is a very fast growing red fleshed hybrid and will start picking 9 months after planting out as seedlings. The fruit is roundish with very clean skin all year and deep red flesh with a mild musk flavour. 2 plants per pot. For more info go to: http://www.papayaseed.com.au/redorganicpapayaseed.htm

Pawpaw – Yellow YD1B Hybrid

The most widely grown of all the hybrids in Australia, fruit is oblong, is very clean, flesh is firm, and is a medium yielding tree. Hybrids are the result of crossing 2 “fixed” (stable) parent lines. Hybrids are more vigorous than their parents, produce more fruit and are less susceptible to disease. All papaya are affected by climatic changes but when grown under stable conditions hybrids are very consistent in fruit shape and size.POHIAN KHOUW/Demand Media

You can expect a textural change upon thawing frozen papaya, but if you follow the three commandments of freezing food — freeze individually, freeze quickly and freeze thoroughly — you’ll minimize it. The larger the pieces of papaya the longer it takes them to freeze, and the longer it takes them to freeze, the more ice crystals that form within the cell walls. Ice crystals within the cell walls of fruit and vegetables are responsible for the mushy texture you see after defrosting; by freezing small pieces individually, you’ll get a texture as close to fresh as possible after defrosting.


Peel the skin from the papaya and slice it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds using a spoon.


Slice the peeled and seeded papaya into 1-inch pieces. Place the sliced papaya on a sheet pan or tray, spacing each piece at least 1/4 inch apart from the next.


Place the tray in the freezer. Freeze the papaya until solid throughout, about 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the freezer.


Pack the frozen papaya into heavy-duty freezer bags and mark them with the date. Return the bags to the freezer and store up to one year for best results.


Thawed papaya has a softer texture and less rigidity than fresh, and lends itself best to pureed preparations, such as smoothies and marinades.

How to Freeze Fresh Papaya (for Smoothies Etc.)

Do you like to use papaya in smoothies? Next time your local grocery store has a special on fresh papaya, it makes sense to buy a little extra and freeze it for later use in smoothies. It is also good to have frozen papaya on hand if you have one of those frozen fruit dessert makers that turn frozen fruits into healthy mock ice cream. However, as the freezing and thawing processes change the texture of papaya, it is not recommended that you freeze papaya if you plan to eat the papaya pieces whole because they will turn mushy when you thaw them.

The best way to freeze papaya for later use in smoothies and frozen treats is to first pre-freeze papaya cubes individually, and once the cubes are frozen, transfer them to freezer-safe bags or containers which you can then pop back into the freezer for long-term storage. Freezing papaya this way ensures the papaya stays in single pieces, and you won’t have to pry the pieces apart when you need to grab just a few for use in your culinary creations.

For detailed instructions on how to freeze papaya, and ideas on how you can use frozen papaya, keep reading.

How to Freeze Papaya

  1. Create a level area in your freezer to fit a spare baking sheet.
  2. Line the baking sheet with a freezer-safe silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
  3. Peel the papaya and remove the seeds. Cut the fruit into bite-sized cubes.
  4. Arrange the cubes in a single layer on the baking sheet, and cover with plastic wrap. Pre-freeze overnight.
  5. Next day, take the baking sheet out of the freezer and lift the edges of the baking mat or parchment to dislodge the fruit pieces. Using a spatula, transfer the papaya cubes to heavy-duty freezer bags or airtight containers (freezer-safe glass containers are great if you are trying to reduce your exposure to BPA).
  6. Seal and label the bags or containers, and pop them in the freezer until you are ready to use your frozen papaya.

What to Do with Frozen Papaya?

Frozen papaya becomes mushy and watery when it thaws, but it still tastes good and is perfect for smoothies. To whip up a yummy smoothie featuring frozen papaya, simply put slightly thawed frozen papaya cubes along with other smoothie ingredients in a high-powered blender, and blend until smooth.

If you have a frozen fruit dessert makers such as Yonanas or Dessert Bullet, another great way to use up a stock of frozen papaya is to turn it into guilt-free sorbet. All you need to do is place a serving bowl under the dispenser, turn on the machine and feed some slightly thawed frozen papaya pieces into the chute. Within seconds, your Yonanas or Dessert Bullet will start extruding your healthy dessert directly into the serving bowl.

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25 Shares Guide to Freezing Papaya

apaya is one of those fruits that people either love or hate, there really isn’t much middle ground. For those who enjoy eating this fruit, it is quite delicious and its composition is also quite beneficial to the body.

If you have a bunch of papayas sitting around, not wanting them to spoil, or you have some you may want to save and use at a later date, I am pretty sure you want to know if they can be frozen? The answer is yes, you can freeze papaya and we are going to show you how.

Why Freezing Papaya is a Good Idea?

There are many reasons why people opt to freeze papayas. The first thing that comes to mind is that most people love freezing this fruit to put in their smoothie. Frozen fruit makes it easy to whip up a good smoothies and if you are making one that calls for papaya as an ingredient, then having frozen pieces of this fruit would be the best thing to have on hand.

Another reason is that there may be large amounts of the fruit at your disposable and they will spoil or you want to keep them to be used at a later date. Whatever the reason, papayas can be frozen easily and the process is quite quick.

How to Freeze Papaya

Freezing papaya is quite simple. It will only take a couple of minutes to have the fruit prepared and ready to store.

The steps below highlight the best way to go about freezing papaya.


  1. Peel the skin from the papaya, then slice it in two, from top to bottom. Remove the seeds from the fruit using a spoon.
  2. Slice up the de-seeded papaya into small bite size pieces.
  3. Place the sliced papaya on a baking sheet or plate. Ensure that the pieces are not touching each other.
  4. Place the baking sheet/plate with the papaya in the freezer. Freeze for about 45 minutes to an hour, or till the papaya is solid.
  5. Remove the fruit from the baking sheet/plate and place in a heavy-duty freezer bag.
  6. Mark the bag with the date, so you have an idea how long it has been in the freezer. (It can be stored up to a year)

Thawing Your Papaya

While most people using the frozen papaya pieces in their smoothies, there are others who will opt to use it in its defrosted state.

It is not recommended, as papaya has a soft texture and when it becomes thawed out, it will be wet, soft and a bit runny. This should be no problem if the fruit will be pureed or used in dishes that call for the fruit. However, to eat it thawed out, the experience would be far from enjoyable.

If you wish to thaw it out, you can leave it to defrost either in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Paw paws are a mystery to most people. Most think they are papayas, Carica papaya, native to the tropics and beloved of Baloo the bear in The Jungle Book. That’s not the fruit I am talking about. I am talking about Asmina triloba, the American paw paw, a/k/a Hoosier banana or custard apple. They are native to the East and Midwest and happen to be our largest native fruit.

Paw paws live in wet places – notably along riverbanks – from New York to Florida and west to the Great Plains. They are the only non-tropical member of the asmina family, which includes the soursop and tropical custard-apple.

Paw paws are typically a small, spindly tree with leaves that look too large for the tree’s size. They tend to grow in mass clumps in the dappled shade of larger trees.

I first encountered paw paws many years ago, along the banks of the Rappahannock River in Virginia while looking for good places to catch herring and shad from the riverbank. I was bushwhacking toward the water when I found myself in a grove of what, superficially, looked like palms growing underneath the canopy of elms and maples. They had oversized leaves with the floppy habit of palm leaves, although they were not fringed like a real palm leaf.

But these “palms” did have shriveled growths on them that resembled a rotten banana.

As it happens, that’s what they are. Sorta. I had an inkling that this might be a paw paw, so I looked up this plant in Euell Gibbons’ Stalking The Wild Asparagus and it was, indeed, a paw paw. I marked the spot and returned in September, and there were the ripe green “bananas” all over the trees. I could have found them blind, because of the aroma.

Photo by Hank Shaw

The best way I can describe the smell of a paw paw is that it’s like a girl’s first perfume: Tropical-floral and intensely sweet, cloying, almost. And powerful! Oh man, bring a sack of paw paws home and your house will smell like the inside of a candy factory in less than an hour.

Wuff. When I first brought home a stash of them one day, I was almost overcome. I would up putting them on the porch overnight, and a raccoon came and ate them all.

I went back and got some more and let them ripen. Like a banana, they ripen from green to yellow to blackish.

photo by Holly A. Heyser

As for flavor, they taste like a cross between bananas and an overripe pear, and the texture is soft and custardy, like lemon curd or an avocado. The color is a rich yellow, like a buttery custard or good French vanilla ice cream.

Thus this paw paw recipe: paw paw ice cream. I am proud to say this one’s a winner. It was pretty simple, actually. Make a standard French vanilla ice cream and add mashed ripe, paw paws, then churn.

5 from 1 vote

Paw Paw Ice Cream

Obviously this is a recipe focusing on North American paw paws, but I am pretty sure banana would work just as well, although the flavors would be very different. Fresh or frozen paw paw mash will work, so you can make this anytime if you have some squirreled away. Use really ripe paw paws here — the blackish ones. This is essentially a French vanilla ice cream with paw paw added right at the end. The only tricky part of this recipe is tempering the egg yolks, and that’s not exactly rocket science. You just need to add the hot cream in small doses while stirring the beaten yolks. I’d eat this ice cream within a few weeks. The longer it sits in the freezer, the hard it gets, and it can get icy over time. Prep Time20 mins Cook Time20 mins Total Time40 mins Course: Dessert Cuisine: American Keyword: ice cream, paw paw Servings: 1 quart Author: Hank Shaw


  • 1 1/2 cups mashed paw paws, about 4 or 5 paw paws
  • 2 cups cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • A scant 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 a vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, scraped
  • 5 egg yolks


  • Start by making the custard for the ice cream. Heat the cream and milk and sugar in a pot over medium heat to the steaming point, about 165°F. If you are using a real vanilla bean, add it to the mixture now. If you are using extract, wait a bit.
  • Beat the egg yolks in a bowl. Stirring the eggs all the time, add one ladle of the hot cream mixture into the eggs. Do this a second time — this is tempering the eggs so they don’t curdle in the hot cream. Pour the egg mixture into the pot.
  • Stir the custard often and heat it back to the steaming point. When it thickens — it should coat the back of a spoon — turn off the heat and pour the custard into a bowl. I like to set the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice to cool the mix down quickly. Stir in the vanilla extract if that’s what you are using.
  • When the custard is cool, whisk in the mashed paw paws until they are well combined. You can put the mixture into your ice cream maker now, or you can push it through a fine-meshed strainer to remove any stray bits; you’ll need to fish out the vanilla bean if you used that anyway. Run through your ice cream machine and eat!


Note that prep time does not include chilling time after you make the custard.

More Wild Ice Creams

You can find a host of recipes for ice creams using wild and foraged ingredients here on Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.

Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension Program

Pawpaw Research Project, Community Research Service, Atwood Research Facility, Frankfort, KY 40601-2355

From The KYSU Extension Bulletin, “Cooking with Pawpaws”

by Snake C. Jones and Desmond R. Layne

Go to Nutritional Information

Pawpaw Description

The pawpaw is the largest edible fruit that is native to the United States. Pawpaws are indigenous to 26 states in the U.S., in a range extending from northern Florida to southern Ontario and as far west as eastern Nebraska. They have provided delicious and nutritious food for Native Americans, European explorers and settlers, and wild animals. They are still being enjoyed in modern America, chiefly in rural areas. There are 27 varieties (Table 1) currently available from more than 50 commercial nurseries in the U.S.

Most enthusiasts agree that the best way to enjoy pawpaws is to eat them raw, outdoors, picked from the tree when they are perfectly ripe. But there are also numerous ways to use them in the kitchen and extend the enjoyment of their tropical flavor beyond the end of the harvest season.

The unique flavor of the fruit resembles a blend of various tropical flavors, including banana, pineapple, and mango. The flavor and custard-like texture make pawpaws a good substitute for bananas in almost any recipe. The common names, ‘poor man’s banana,’ ‘American custard apple,’ and ‘Kentucky banana’ reflect these qualities.

Pawpaw’s beautiful, maroon colored flowers appear in the spring, and the clusters of fruit ripen in the fall. The Kentucky harvest season is from late August to mid-October. Ripe pawpaw fruits are easily picked, yielding to a gentle tug. Shaking the tree will make them fall off. (If you try this, don’t stand under the fruit clusters, and don’t say we didn’t warn you.) Ripeness can also be gauged by squeezing gently, as you would judge a peach. The flesh should be soft, and the fruit should have a strong, pleasant aroma. The skin color of ripe fruit on the tree ranges from green to yellow, and dark flecks may appear, as on bananas. The skin of picked or fallen fruit may darken to brown or black.

Fully ripe pawpaws last only a few days at room temperature, but may be kept for a week in the refrigerator. If fruit is refrigerated before it is fully ripe, it can be kept for up to three weeks, and can then be allowed to finish ripening at room temperature. Ripe pawpaw flesh, with skin and seeds removed, can be pureed and frozen for later use. Some people even freeze whole fruits.

Pawpaws are very nutritious fruits. They are high in vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper, and manganese. They are a good source of potassium and several essential amino acids, and they also contain significant amounts of riboflavin, niacin, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc. Pawpaws contain these nutrients in amounts that are generally about the same as or greater than those found in bananas, apples, or oranges.

Nutritional Information


In comparison with banana, apple, and orange, pawpaws have a higher protein and fat content. Banana exceeds pawpaw in food energy and carbohydrate content. There is little difference among these fruits in dietary fiber content. Pawpaw is most similar to banana in overall composition. Apple is especially low in protein, orange is low in fat, and both are lower than pawpaw or banana in food energy. See Table 2 and Table 3 for details.


Pawpaw has three times as much vitamin C as apple, twice as much as banana, and one third as much as orange. Pawpaw has six times as much riboflavin as apple, and twice as much as orange. Niacin content of pawpaw is twice as high as banana, fourteen times as high as apple, and four times as high as orange. See Table 2 and Table 3 for details.


Pawpaw and banana are both high in potassium, having about twice as much as orange and three times as much as apple. Pawpaw has one and a half times as much calcium as orange, and about ten times as much as banana or apple. Pawpaw has two to seven times as much phosphorus, four to twenty times as much magnesium, twenty to seventy times as much iron, five to twenty times as much zinc, five to twelve times as much copper, and sixteen to one hundred times as much manganese, as do banana, apple, or orange. See Table 2 and Table 3 for details. Sodium content has not yet been determined.

Amino acids

The protein in pawpaw contains all of the essential amino acids. Pawpaw exceeds apple in all of the essential amino acids, and it exceeds or equals banana and orange in most of them. See Table 2 and Table 3 for details.


The profile of fatty acids in pawpaw is preferable to that in banana. Pawpaw has 32% saturated, 40% monounsaturated, and 28% polyunsaturated fatty acids. Banana has 52% saturated, 15% monounsaturated, and 34% polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Table 1. Commercially Available Named Pawpaw Cultivars in the United States a

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Cultivar Origin Type Selector, Year
Davis Illinois Chance seedling Corwin Davis, 1959
Ford Amend Unknown Chance seedling Ford Amend, 1950
G-2 Unknown G.A. Zimmerman seed John W. McKay, 1942
Glaser Indiana Chance seedling P. Glaser, date unknown
Kirsten Pennsylvania Hybrid of Taytwo and Overleese Tom Mansell, date unknown
Little Rosie Indiana Chance seedling P. Glaser, date unknown
M-1 Unknown Seedling from G-2 John W. McKay, 1948
Mango Georgia Chance seedling Major C. Collins, 1970
Mary Foos Johnson Kansas Chance seedling Milo Gibson, date unknown
Mason/WLW Ohio Chance seedling Ernest J. Downing, 1938
Middletown Ohio Chance seedling Ernest J. Downing, 1915
Mitchell Illinois Chance seedling Joseph W. Hickman, 1979
NC-1 Ontario Hybrid of Davis and Overleese R. Douglas Campbell, 1976
Overleese Indiana Chance seedling W.B. Ward, 1950
PA-Golden Unknown George Slate seed John Gordon, date unknown
Prolific Michigan Chance seedling Corwin Davis, 1980
Rebecca‘s Gold Unknown Corwin Davis seed J.M. Riley, 1974
SAA-Overleese New York Overleese seed John Gordon, 1982
SAA-Zimmerman New York G.A. Zimmerman seed John Gordon, 1982
Silver Creek Illinois Chance seedling K. Schubert, date unknown
Sunflower b Kansas Chance seedling Milo Gibson, 1970
Sweet Alice West Virginia Chance seedling Homer Jacobs, 1934
Taylor Michigan Chance seedling Corwin Davis, 1968
Taytwo Michigan Chance seedling Corwin Davis, 1968
Wells Indiana Chance seedling David K. Wells, 1990
Wilson Kentucky Chance seedling John V. Creech, 1985
Zimmerman Unknown G.A. Zimmerman seed George Slate, date unknown

a. More than 50 commercial nurseries market pawpaw seeds or trees in the U.S. For persons interested in high quality fruit production, we recommend purchasing container-grown trees grafted to a named cultivar. Two or more unrelated trees should be planted to ensure adequate cross-pollination. Regional adaptability will vary for each cultivar. Return to Table 1

b. Some persons have reported this cultivar to be self-fruitful. Return to Sunflower

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Table 2. Nutritional Comparison of Pawpaw with Other Fruits a

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Food Energy Calories
Protein grams
Total Fat grams
Carbohydrate grams
Dietary Fiber grams
Vitamin A RE b
Vitamin A IU c
Vitamin C milligrams
Thiamin milligrams
Riboflavin milligrams
Niacin milligrams
Potassium milligrams
Calcium milligrams
Phosphorus milligrams
Magnesium milligrams
Iron milligrams
Zinc milligrams
Copper milligrams
Manganese milligrams
Essential amino acids
Histidine milligrams
Isoleucine milligrams
Leucine milligrams
Lysine milligrams
Methionine milligrams
Cystine milligrams
Phenylalanine milligrams
Tyrosine milligrams
Threonine milligrams
Tryptophan milligrams
Valine milligrams

a. Mean value per 100 grams edible portion. Pawpaw analysis was done on pulp with skin, although the skin is not considered edible. Probably much of the dietary fiber, and possibly some of the fat, would be thrown away with the skin. Number in bold face represents the highest value for each component. Return to Table 2

b. Retinol Equivalents – these units are used in the most recent National Research Council Recommended Dietary Allowances table (1989). Return to Vitamins

c. International Units – these units are still seen on many labels. Return to Vitamins

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Table 3. Portion of Daily Needs Provided by Pawpaw in Comparison with Other Fruits a

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a. Percentage of daily nutritional need per 100 gram serving. Number in bold face represents highest value for each component. Return to Table 3

b. Percentage of Daily Reference Value, based on a diet of 2,000 Calories a day for adults. Return to Composition

c. Percentage of the 1989 NAS-NRC Recommended Dietary Allowance, average value for women and men ages 25-50. Return to Vitamins | Return to Minerals

d. Percentage of the Estimated Safe and Adequate Daily Dietary Intake, average value for adults. Return to Minerals

e. Percentage of the estimated amino acid requirement for a 60 kg (130 lb) adult. Return to Amino Acids

Return to TOP | Return to Table 3


National Research Council Food and Nutrition Board, 1989. Recommended Dietary Allowances, 10th edition. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

Kurtzweil, Paula, 1991. ‘Daily Values’ Encourage Healthy Diet.

Full USDA Nutrient Database listings. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list

Have you heard of pawpaw? We’re not talking about your grandpa! The pawpaw is a lesser-known fruit that is full of antioxidants. Learn where to find it and why it’s good for you.

You have pawpaw in your fruit bowl, right? Probably not — because it’s not sold in commercial grocery stores. In fact, many people hadn’t even heard of it until NPR ran a story on the pawpaw, which just so happens to be in season right now.

Apparently, the pawpaw is a “mango-like fruit” that isn’t sold in stores. Alison Aubrey, who wrote the story, traveled with some friends along the Potomac River near Washington, D.C., to find the pawpaw. She describes it as “sort of mango-meets-the-banana … with a little hint of melon.”

The pawpaw has a history that dates back to the 1500s, when Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto discovered Native Americans eating pawpaws in the Mississippi Valley. Thomas Jefferson had pawpaws at Monticello and Lewis and Clark ate pawpaws when they were short on food.

The pawpaw was commercialized very recently, but it is only available at select farmers markets. Only a few orchards grow the pawpaw — at least for now.

Why is it so great? Kentucky State University has a pawpaw research program. The website explains that the pawpaw has a tropical fruit flavor — a mixture of banana, mango and pineapple. It’s nutritious and high in antioxidants, which is a good reason to eat it and tastes great blended in fruit drinks, yogurt, ice cream and more.

>> Improve your eyesight with antioxidants and omega-3s

The pawpaw sounds good to us — a tropical fruit with health benefits! Maybe one day the pawpaw will make its way to the grocery store.


The pawpaw or papaya is reputed to carry the most health benefits of any fruit and grows in abundance around the Pacific Islands.

With a lot of hidden benefits for skin, health and hair, coupled with its deliciousness, pawpaw now ranks as one of the most beneficial gifts nature has blessed us with.

So what are the health benefits of Pawpaw?

One extremely important health benefit of Pawpaw is that pawpaw leaves juice is widely recognised as a natural cure for dengue fever which is very prevalent in the Pacific Islands. The leaves have a mix of nutrients and organic compounds which help in increasing your platelet count. Papaya leaves also have a high level of vitamin C which stimulate the immune system.

All you need to do is crush the leaves and stain the juice from the crushed leaves.

Pawpaw contains dietary fibre, folate, vitamin A, C and E as well as small amounts of calcium, iron, riboflavin, thiamine and niacin and is very rich in antioxidant nutrients flavonoids and carotenes. It is also used in the manufacturing of several cosmetic, skin, and beauty products as well as certain chewing gums.

Pawpaw are available for consumption throughout the year and the whole fruit, including the leaves & other parts of the tree, are beneficial to health in several ways.


Papayas are rich in fibre, vitamin C and antioxidants that prevent cholesterol buildup in the arteries. Too much cholesterol build-up can block the arteries, causing a heart attack. But with pawpaw, the building up of the cholesterol in the arteries, is made impossible.


Amazingly, a single papaya can fulfil more than 200% of your daily requirement of Vitamin C, making it a great agent of a stronger immune system.


The presence of folate, vitamin C, and vitamin E in papayas may reduce motion sickness by producing a tonic effect in the stomach and in the intestines. The fiber obtained from the fruit helps to increase bowel movements and improved bowel movements reduces the effects of constipation.


Free radicals and oxidative stress are closely related to different types of cancer. Because pawpaws are rich in antioxidants, the fruit can help protect cells from damage and lower the risk of cancer. Additionally, pawpaw contains the antioxidant beta-carotene. One study found that beta-carotene offers protection from prostate cancer.


Papaya contains several unique protein-digesting enzymes including papain and chymopapain. These enzymes have been shown to help lower inflammation and to improve healing from burns. In addition, the antioxidant nutrients found in papaya, including vitamin C and beta-carotene, are very good at reducing inflammation.


Papayas are rich in Vitamin A and flavonoids like beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, cryptoxanthin and lutein, which keep the mucous membranes in the eyes healthy, preventing them from damage.

The Vitamin A in pawpaw helps prevents the development of age-related macular degeneration.

Quick Tips to Enjoy Papayas:

  • Pieces of pawpaw, when soaked with a bit of lemon
  • Add a slice of pawpaw to a fresh fruit salad and have it as a snack

Try our fave Pacific Islands recipes for pawpaw – Koko Esi & Savai’an Esi Salad – below …

How did Americans forget about the pawpaw?

Though the pawpaw grows wild in 26 states, the fruit remains a mystery to many Americans. Andrew Moore, author of Pawpaw, says that wasn’t always the case.

Joe Yonan: I was so surprised to find out that the largest edible fruit native to the U.S. is a pawpaw.

Andrew Moore (Photo: Jonathan Yahalom)

Andrew Moore: That’s right. Which was something that struck me — how does something that’s this big go largely unnoticed by most Americans? I learned that this wasn’t actually always the case. At one time Americans were entirely familiar with pawpaws, going back to the Native Americans, who ate the fruit, who used the tree’s fiber for cordage and rope, on down through the earliest explorers, colonists and pioneers. The pawpaw was an important fruit and food item each year in late summer.

JY: It actually is tropical.

AM: That’s right. In many ways it’s a tropical fruit that has willed itself to grow in the temperate North, to grow where it probably shouldn’t. We know that over millennia it evolved to be here, but it is the only member of the tropical custard apple family that’s not found in the tropics.

JY: In fact, here in America there is something that you refer to as the “pawpaw belt.” Can you explain that?

AM: The “pawpaw belt” is a term I use to refer to the states and regions where the pawpaw is native, where it grows wild. That encompasses parts of 26 eastern states. It spans from southern Louisiana to Ontario, Canada, from the Atlantic west to the Mississippi, and into Oklahoma and even Nebraska.

JY: What happened? Why did the pawpaw disappear from our tables?

AM: That’s the big question. That was the mystery that I was trying to get at in the book: How did Americans forget about this and why? The easiest way to explain it is that when Americans stopped going to the woods for food, they stopped knowing the pawpaw.

JY: What does a pawpaw taste like?

AM: The pawpaw is commonly described as a cross between a mango and banana. That’s true.

But the first thing I like to describe is the texture. It has this tropical custard texture. That’s more similar to fruits you find in the Caribbean, fruits like guanabana and cherimoya, custard apples.

The best thing you can do with a ripe, fresh pawpaw is just to eat it out of hand. Cut it in half, scoop it out and eat it like a custard in a cup, which is essentially what it is.

But obviously if you have a lot of pawpaws growing, if you’ve come across a bumper crop in the woods, you’re going to want to do something with it. The second best way to enjoy a pawpaw is Pawpaw Ice Cream. It’s one of the best ice cream flavors I’ve ever tasted.

JY: I saw that there are even companies like Zingerman’s that are selling pawpaw ice cream. There are even pawpaw beers, right?

AM: Absolutely.

JY: How do I get my hands on pawpaws? How do we find them if we’re not foragers? Or do we need to be foragers to find them?

AM: No, increasingly you don’t need to be a forager to find a pawpaw. If you’re lucky, you might have pawpaws at your local farmers market. More and more folks are setting pawpaws out in orchards and growing them like you would any other fruit. Then other farmers are realizing that they have this fruit growing in the woods that they can harvest and bring to market. So if you’re lucky, you can go to your farmers market and you might see a pawpaw grower, or you might see someone who has begun to gather these from the woods and offer them for sale.

I think when you look at things like local food movements, the return to regional cuisines and regional foodways, I think people are naturally drawn to the pawpaw. I think people are excited by the story of the pawpaw. Certainly they are excited by the taste of it. They’re excited to return to some of these food roots that connect them to their grandparents’ generation or previous generations. I see a lot of things happening in the current climate of food and agriculture that bodes well for the return of pawpaws.

My Notes on Pawpaws

Ted Ruegsegger

Revised 27 July 2018

The pawpaw is the largest edible fruit native to the United States. Searching the web for “pawpaw” finds all kinds of articles and pictures (it’ll also find you lots of references to papaya, an entirely different fruit which some people call pawpaw). Instead of duplicating all that, I’ll list my own observations and notes.

How do they taste?

They have a taste all their own—the closest description, and the one you’ll read on most websites, is that they’re a cross between a banana and a mango. On the one hand, that’s completely wrong: eating one doesn’t remind you of bananas or mangoes. On the other, it’s right in spirit, conveying a sense of rich, creamy texture and sweet, fruity flavor. Another description I’ve heard is banana and pear.

Also, their flavor varies over time. When they’re first ripe enough to eat, the flesh is light greenish-yellow and more banana-like in flavor. As they get more ripe, the yellow color deepens and that “banana-mango” flavor predominates. Finally they get a very deep brownish-yellow and taste like caramel (in the sense of flan, aka crème caramel). Hard to say which I like best but I guess I lean toward the caramel end.

Once in a while you’ll get one that tastes bland or even soapy. Don’t write pawpaws off; you just got a bad one—spit it out and grab another.

Why don’t supermarkets carry them?

Too perishable. Perhaps they might someday carry frozen pawpaw pulp, which is delicious.

Where do you find them?

If you’re lucky enough to live in a region that has pawpaw orchards, by all means pay them a visit. When I started my quest some decades ago, such places were difficult to find, but now that every farm has a web site, a search will quickly show you the ones nearest you. These days, you may even find pawpaw fruit at farmers’ markets.

Failing that, you must look for wild pawpaws. Tricky. In theory, they grow all over the US, east of the Mississippi, but you have to know where to look. Once you’ve seen a pawpaw tree or, better yet, a pawpaw patch, you’ll get better at spotting them.

I stumbled on my first wild pawpaws by accident. I knew what the fruits looked like since I’d mail-ordered them for years, so when I saw one lying on a walking path I recognized it. “That’s a pawpaw!” I looked around and saw a tree with glossy, tropical-looking leaves just like the pictures: “That’s a pawpaw tree!” Then the surrounding trees came into focus: “It’s a whole pawpaw forest!” Sure enough, for almost a mile along both banks of a creek in Chantilly, Virginia, the dominant tree was the pawpaw. We came back and easily filled half a dozen supermarket bags with fruit. Every year for almost a month the fruit were there for the collecting—no one else seemed to know or care. I miss the Enchanted Pawpaw Forest. It was the ideal environment in terms of soil, water and drainage. What’s more, a symbiotic insect population had arisen that ensured an exceptionally high pollination rate, so the trees bore fruit like mad. A thorough spraying with insect repellent was a small price for such abundance.

Mail-order them? Whence?

Integration Acres will ship you particularly tasty Ohio fruit in season (late August through early October) as well as frozen pawpaw pulp and other delicacies.

How can I be sure it’s a pawpaw tree?

Obviously it’s no problem if there are flowers or fruit. But a few trees look similar, especially as small seedlings. The leaves alternate along the stems and have a characteristic shape, widest just before their outline reverses its curve and comes to a point. They have no sawteeth along the edges (those are beeches). In the fall, pawpaw foliage turns a paler green while everything around it is still dark green, after which it turns a pale yellow; this makes pawpaw patches readily visible from afar.

If you’re still in doubt, crush a bit of a leaf and smell it; if it’s a pawpaw, it will have a “gasoline-like” smell (it’s about as close to gasoline as the fruit flavor is to a banana, but it’s distinctive, an unmistakeable petroleum-distillate odor. Others describe it as a “green bell pepper” smell, and I have to admit that’s equally plausible). Another plant, Lindera benzoin aka northern spicebush or Appalachian allspice, resembles a pawpaw as a seedling and also has that smell plus a sweet, fruity smell like citronella. If you find spicebush, there’s a good chance pawpaws are growing nearby, at least in the South. If you find them in the North, plant some pawpaws!

How do I harvest wild pawpaws?

They fall to the ground: pick them up, after checking that bugs haven’t got to them first. Gently feel (don’t squeeze—they bruise easily) any hanging fruit within reach—if they’re hard, leave them to ripen a few more days. To get ripe fruit not in reach, give the tree a gentle shake, then pick up the fruits that drop. Don’t shake too hard or unripe fruit will drop. Take them home anyway—they’ll ripen on the kitchen counter, not as well as on the tree but still delicious.

When they drop, some will bruise and some will split open. Don’t be squeamish—they taste just as good and the unbroken ones won’t keep much longer anyway.

I use plastic grocery bags to collect them in the wild; don’t fill them more than halfway or the ones on the bottom will be completely squashed. Three bags in each hand is my limit; even then I leave full bags next to landmarks to pick up on my return. Carry spare bags since you’ll tear some on thornbushes or other undergrowth.

When you get them home, rinse them off in the sink and lay them out on towels to air dry. From the ones that are split or squashed I go ahead and scoop the flesh into a container and put it in the refrigerator. And it goes without saying that the person who does the washing and sorting gets to eat all he wants!

How do I eat them?

Photos usually show them cut in half lengthwise, displaying the rows of seeds. That’s certainly a nice presentation but it’s a tedious chore poking a knife between all the seeds until you can pry it apart. Perhaps for company, each half placed on a dessert plate with a spoon.

I cut them in half at right angles to the long axis. In fact, the skin is so tender you can nick it with a fingernail and pull it apart. At that point you can scoop the pulp out with a spoon; that’s the best way to get every last bit. Outdoors, say while harvesting wild pawpaws, you’ll probably just squeeze the contents of each half into your mouth.

Pawpaw recipes abound, for example, two very promising ones in this NPR article. I have a pawpaw pie recipe of my own that I’m slowly improving. Note that, unlike bananas, which are best for baking when very much overripe, pawpaws peak at the deep-yellow caramel stage and then get pale tan and flavorless. So if you want to bake with them, you have to give up eating some fresh.

Wild pawpaws are delicious! Does it get any better than this?

Yes, as a matter of fact! I can find something to like in just about any pawpaw, but when I finally had some of those named cultivars I got what the fuss is about. After I moved north, away from the Enchanted Pawpaw Forest, I resumed ordering fruit from Integration Acres and noticed a dramatic change in the quality. Whereas they used to pick and ship wild-growing fruit, their orchards are now grown and bearing. It’s not practical to label every fruit they ship, but it’s very clear that the selected varieties are superior to most wild fruit.

I had for years heard and read of the work of Neal Peterson who bred especially great, named varieties of pawpaw. If you don’t already know all about this icon of the pawpaw world, take a moment to browse his website, which includes a link to NPR’s excellent introduction to pawpaws by Allison Aubrey. Thanks to Abbie White, who has a pawpaw grove at Whitesfields Farm in Hardwick, Massachusetts and sells the fruit at the Hardwick Farmers’ Market, I had my first taste of Peterson’s Shenandoah and Susquehanna varieties. Mouth-watering, deeply satisfying, with a bonus that there’s much more flesh and fewer seeds.

Can I grow my own?

You can and you should. If you want named cultivars (and you do), you must buy grafted trees. In that case, unless you have a wild pawpaw population nearby, be sure to plant more than one variety since, like apples, pawpaws usually can’t pollinate themselves or close relatives. After years of starting my own seedlings and planting them around my property, I now have four Peterson trees happily growing in my yard. Besides guaranteeing excellent fruit, these grafted trees give me about three years’ head start compared to seedlings.

A few years back I purchased a seedling tree from Tripple Brook Farm. The tree, already growing in the ground at the farm, moved to my yard with no apparent transplant shock and appears to be thriving, giving the lie to the widespread belief that transplanting a pawpaw is sure death. But beware, that belief is well-founded: the reason the transplant worked is that the Tripple Brook Farm folks have special equipment to extract and secure the root ball without damaging the fragile taproot and root hairs.

That tree grew from less than three feet to over eleven, flowering at last in the spring of 2014, then grew to over fifteen feet before top-pruning.

Share the bounty?

I have undertaken to restore the pawpaw to as much of New England (well, at least central Massachusetts and nearby Connecticut) as I can. It’s still not clear to me where pawpaws originally grew. Maps abound purporting to depict the “native range” of the tree. If some of them are to be believed, pawpaw trees somehow knew about—and wouldn’t cross—certain state boundaries, thousands of years before there were any United States! I understand that “native” means “without human involvement”, but since the native Americans (I can’t help nitpicking that, since our species originated in Africa, they must not be “native” either) loved pawpaws and spread them everywhere they went, how does anyone really know where the pawpaws grew before that happened? Since pawpaws clearly grow and bear fruit in at least the western part of Massachusetts, could they have been here in the past? Recall that the New England settlers cleared most of the original forests for farmland; only since the mid-19th century have the forests returned. Since pawpaws favor riverbanks and other areas with a reliable water supply, also known as fertile bottomland, they were likely wiped out by farmers wanting this valuable terrain. Many conifers and hardwoods came back on their own, perhaps spreading from adjacent intact habitats; evidently pawpaws lacked that advantage. Perhaps, given a few more centuries, they would have made it back themselves, but for now, enthusiasts like me will give them a little help.

So far, almost sixty little pawpaw patches have sprouted where I planted seeds, mostly just by sticking them in the ground. There’s now even a pawpaw patch on Mt. Tom!

Update, September 2016: I finally made it back, four years later, to see my pawpaw seedlings on Mt. Tom, along the M&M trail. Yikes! I didn’t recognize the site at first, devastated by the vicissitudes of weather, in particular the October 8, 2014 microburst. After a long search, I found one 7-in seedling (confirmed as a pawpaw by the smell of a torn leaf) and possibly two smaller ones (unconfirmed, since they didn’t look like they could spare any leaf) peeking out from under a pile of downed trees. Why still so small? My theory is that the top growth was crushed in the general wreckage and the rootstocks had to start over with fresh shoots. In any case, they’ll grow slowly in this overly shady spot, and this summer’s drought probably didn’t help either. But they’re alive!

If you live in a region lacking abundant pawpaw patches, I encourage you to plant seeds in likely places.

You can buy seeds a lot more cheaply than seedlings (well, if you count your own time and labor as free). If you already have some tasty fruit, by all means save the seeds, being very careful not to let them dry out, and grow them.

How do I sprout seeds?

As your web search has told you, they need a few months of cold, must not dry out, and are slow to germinate. Once they germinate, the long taproot and the root hairs are so fragile that damaging them will kill the seedling.

In the past I’ve stratified seeds in the refrigerator over the winter and then started them in shallow flats with transparent bottoms so I could spot each sprouting seed and move it either to its final bed (in warm weather) or into a tall pot (when it’s cold outside). This is tricky and tedious.

I’m now convinced that by far the best way to propagate pawpaws from seed is to plant the seeds directly in the ground where I want the trees to grow. For fresh seeds, this means in the fall when I get them from fresh fruit. They’ll stratify over the winter and then sprout the following summer. Leftover seeds can go in the refrigerator and get planted the next spring. After revisiting the places I’ve planted seeds in the wild, I find the germination rate for seeds popped into the ground is surprisingly high, at least here in central Massachusetts.

Where’s the best place to plant them?

My observations of wild pawpaws in Virginia suggest that water is the key. The Enchanted Pawpaw Forest was apparently ideal. The creek (stream, run, branch, lick, Southerners have a zillion names for flowing water while New England has just rivers and brooks) was large (the bed was 30 to 50 feet across and about six feet deep but I rarely saw it anywhere near full, so that must have been erosion from storm runoff) and never went completely dry, even in the worst summer drought. The banks were 4 to 5 feet above the water level, wide and flat. Pawpaws supposedly need good drainage but these flats would have standing water for several days after a hard rain and mud for a few days more. Of course, that whole region seems to be mostly red clay so “good drainage” is relative.

Pawpaws in nearby forests looked healthy and flowered abundantly in the spring but bore little or no fruit. I’m all but certain that was because they just ran out of water during the dry summer, at least during the few years I noticed they were there, when we had steadily worsening annual droughts.

Find a place that won’t dry out in the summer, like a stream bank or the area adjacent to a pond or wetland, and place several seeds (preferably from different trees, for cross-pollination) in the ground, an inch or so deep. Use photos, GPS coordinates or detailed descriptions and measurements to be sure you can locate the seedlings the next summer or fall amid everything else that will sprout in the same area. Bear in mind that you won’t see any topgrowth until a few weeks after germination, since the taproot grows about a foot during that time. Or else just wait a few years until the sprouts are big enough to notice easily; it seems to me that young seedlings grow about six inches per year, more later on. If possible, try to keep the immediate vicinity clear of weeds, because they raise the humidity and can encourage fungus on young seedlings.

Some sources say shade is important for young trees. That may be true for rows of little trees in a sun-drenched orchard but I’ve noticed that trees planted in the shade grow way more slowly than those with at least partial sun (one of mine had barely reached a foot after five years), and those with full sun don’t seem to suffer, at least not here in the North. In any case, when it’s time to bear fruit, sun is good.

An excellent modern reference is the KYSU Pawpaw Planting Guide.

What about pollination?

Pawpaws don’t attract honey bees, depending instead on less efficient native pollinators like flies and various bugs. Self-sufficient ecosystems like the Enchanted Pawpaw Forest manage to set up their own pollinator populations—I don’t know which of the insects did the actual pollinating but the place was a haven for chiggers, biting flies and gnats that kept flying into your eyes. Nothing DEET couldn’t handle but not what you’d want in your yard.

What the pros do is use a fine paintbrush to pollinate them by hand, going from tree to tree to ensure the required cross-pollination. Note that pawpaws are extremely fertile, perhaps to compensate for scarce pollinators, so the yield will be well worth the extra trouble. Apios Institute’s Pawpaw page includes an excellent description of this process, with beautiful photos that clarify the critical timing issues. When my first tree finally bloomed, that’s what I did.


Deer don’t eat pawpaw seedlings, bark or foliage; nor do goats. This gives pawpaw trees an advantage in the woods and on farms. A correspondent cautions me that, when the deer need to rub their antlers on trees, pawpaws are as susceptible as any, so protect the young ones.

Almost nothing bothers pawpaw trees. Where pawpaws are plentiful, the larvae of the Zebra Swallowtail butterfly feed on the leaves, but not enough to do the trees any harm (probably this makes them toxic or bad-tasting to predators, like monarch butterflies with milkweed). I have noticed Japanese beetles and gypsy moth larvae nibbling some holes in some of the leaves, but they give up quickly, too. This tree has fantastic defenses!

All you really need to do is:

  • Ensure they don’t dry out.
  • Remove branches that might break under snow load.
  • Top-prune them to keep the trees a manageable height.

Abbie White’s trees have trunks as thick as my leg. Trees like that would be thirty or forty feet tall in the wild, but hers are ten to twelve feet, tops, with sturdy branches and fruit within reach.

If a tree bears unsatisfactory fruit, leave it in place as a rootstock and graft a better one onto it! I read this somewhere and realized by hindsight it was obvious, but a great idea just the same. Since I’ve planted lots and lots of seeds of unknown quality, I guess I’m going to have to learn how to graft! Bear in mind that pawpaw patches spread by suckers from the roots, and these will be from the rootstock.

A reliable source?

A recognized authority on all things relating to pawpaws I most certainly am not! But I’ve learned some things, unlearned some widespread but wrong notions, and gradually come to a level of understanding I wish I had long ago. So I’m sharing.

A few decades I ago I kept reading about pawpaws and vowed that I would taste one before I died. At the time, the only way to get any (in New England) was to grow a tree, and I made several failed attempts. When we moved to Virginia I started some seeds, got one to sprout and planted it in the yard, whereupon I finally saw my first pawpaw tree. Long before it was big enough to bear, we moved.

Then came the World Wide Web and Integration Acres and I finally got to taste a pawpaw. In early September 2005, many mail-ordered pawpaws later, I passed by our old house and saw that my pawpaw tree had fruit! That was the first and, for almost a decade, only fruit from a tree I planted. Alas, the new owners had no interest in pawpaws and cut the tree down soon after.

A month later I discovered the Enchanted Pawpaw Forest and my pawpaw education took off. When we returned to New England I wrote up what I’d learned, put it on the web, and was amazed at the response I got. Many readers turned out to be Virginia neighbors I’d never met (but whom I hope to meet on my next visit). As my “Johnny Pawpawseed” activities gained momentum, more and more responses came from New Englanders with similar interests.

So here I am, a lover of the fruit and the tree, a passionate advocate for restoring both to their rightful place. My last yard had sixteen pawpaw plantings, some grafted, some seedlings. I’ve helped friends and neighbors establish their own trees. In the wilds of central and western Massachusetts I’ve planted seeds in about 150 places so far, of which almost sixty have sprouted into seedlings.

Fruit at last!

In the spring of 2014, I noticed something new on my largest tree: little fuzzy bumps on some of the branches. Yup, flower buds! After what seemed like an aeon, they became actual flowers.

As soon as my flowers started ripening, I was off to Whitesfields Farm with a fine paintbrush to collect pollen from Abbie’s pawpaws.

After several days of careful hand-pollination, I started to see changes in the flowers, as the ovaries swelled and the petals fell; within a week I started seeing baby fruits. More and more appeared, and soon I had a cluster of six tiny fruits, a couple of clusters of four, some threes, and some twos and singles, over twenty baby fruits in all, barely more than half an inch long.

I didn’t know it then, but that was pretty much the high point. After a while there seemed to be fewer fruits, but since the leaves were now filling out I thought perhaps they were just harder to locate. Then I saw a couple of my precious babies on the ground! Birds? Squirrels? No, just my continuing education about pawpaws: a phenomenon called fruit drop. If the tree has set more fruit than it can bring to maturity, it will shed the excess to accommodate its resources. My tree, although it was now ten feet tall, was still only three inches across at the base of the trunk. It’s probably more complicated than that, taking into account the available water, sunlight, and soil fertility. By July only a single fruit remained. Fortunately for my sanity, that pawpaw did survive until it finally fell from the tree at the end of October. Even so, it hadn’t fully ripened, so I guess the tree knew what it was doing—instead of twenty immature fruits, it made one with viable seeds. I let it ripen on the counter for a week; it was edible, but surely I could expect better as the tree matured.

On the other hand, I can finally say I’ve eaten fruit from my own pawpaw tree!

Two Years Later

Now it was 2016 and the trees were maturing surprisingly quickly. In the spring I was pleased to see sixteen baby fruits on my trees, plus two on my neighbors’, but gloomily expected them to drop any day. Instead, they all survived. They swelled to the size of hen’s eggs and then stayed that size for much of the summer, probably owing to the drought despite my watering them from time to time, but as fall approached they started swelling.

The champ was a seedling from a Sunflower, which had grown to 10½ feet and had nine fruits, including a cluster of four.

But my grafted Shenandoah, shown above but now 7½ feet tall, was living up to its reputation as a heavy bearer (and early–it was barely taller than I was!) with a quad and a pair, and those are noticeably larger than the others.

Another change was gradually making itself known: what was just a yard with a few pawpaw trees planted in and around it was now taking on the appearance of a pawpaw orchard.

2017: My Last Hurrah

This was the year my trees came into their own. Forty beautiful and delicious fruits, half of them from my young Shenandoah, six more from the newly-bearing Potomac. And all this while a gypsy-moth plague stripped most other trees. At this rate, I’d guess next year’s harvest will need to be weighed instead of counted!

Sadly, this was also the year we sold the house and moved. The new owners know and appreciate pawpaws, so the effort didn’t go to waste.

And a Fresh Start

No, not wasted at all. With my lessons learned, I started over at the new house. I read that grafted trees in pots can be planted in the fall, so I ordered eight named varieties right away. I planted them in my new yard, not without trepidation, since the young trees looked so thin and fragile and, as fall turns to winter, the winds blow hard and cold. Would the graft unions survive until spring?

Spring 2018

I watched gloomily as the winter frosts and storms raged over my tiny trees and turned their beds to pools of ice, steeling myself to start over in spring. To my astonished delight, all but one shrugged it off, leafing out vigorously. In May, the replacement and seven more trees arrived. I should take a moment here to praise One Green World for their fantastic packaging. The eight trees were underway with UPS for almost a week, and arrived in perfect condition, each pot snugly wrapped in plastic and braced against the opposite end of the box with a bamboo stake, so everything stayed put no matter how the box was rotated or bounced around.

So now I have fifteen pawpaw trees including, at last, all six Peterson varieties. With any luck at all, I’ll have my first fruits in five or six years. Only after they were all planted did another thought occur to me: What about in ten years, when I have hundreds of pounds of fruit? Farmers’ Market? Local food bank? Plus I’ll get to try out all those pawpaw recipes for which I’ve never had enough fruit before.

Contacting the Author

Theodore B. Ruegsegger

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