“What are pawpaws,” you ask? Also known as the American Custard Apple, or Indiana Banana, pawpaws (Asimina triloba) are the largest edible fruit native to North America. This fruit was widely eaten and enjoyed by Native Americans back in the day. Currently, it can be found growing wild in the US as a shade-loving understory tree.
Pawpaws are actually very large berries, sometimes growing longer than 6 inches. They turn from green to yellow (or brown) when ripe. The fruit has a strong tropical flavor — similar to bananas, pineapples, or mangoes!
Ripe pawpaws have a very short shelf life: about 3-5 days. This has made it impossible for pawpaws to be sold in most grocery stores, since they can’t be transported to market quickly enough. Growing pawpaws in your backyard is the best way for you to enjoy this fruit.
Young pawpaw plants are very sensitive to full sunlight and require filtered sun for the first year or two. Once established, pawpaw trees produce the most fruit when grown in full sun. Pawpaws grow well in shade too, but they will produce less fruit than trees grown in full sun. Hardy pawpaw trees grow well in colder climates. Amend the soil with compost and water regularly throughout the growing season. For proper pollination, plant at least two different varieties of pawpaws. They need insects to cross-pollinate the flowers, so it is important that your landscape is friendly to pollinating insects. The fruit forms in clusters, from 2 to 9 fruits per cluster. Pawpaws are low maintenance, and because they are native to the US, their garden “pests” are not a problem… making them great to plant if you practice organic gardening! Pawpaw trees purchased from Stark Bro’s bear fruit in about 5-7 years.
You can begin harvesting pawpaws in mid August thru the first frost (generally early to mid October). Pawpaws are great to eat fresh off the tree, but they have a lot of uses in recipes as well! Because of their banana-like taste and texture, pawpaws make a good banana substitute for recipes like banana bread. They are healthy, too, with more protein, vitamin C, iron, niacin, calcium, phosphorous, zinc, magnesium, cooper, and manganese than apples, oranges, or bananas.
The nutritional value of pawpaws makes them a perfect fruit for healthy, delicious smoothies! Smoothies are quick, easy, and fun to make, as you can see in my video below. You’ll need to separate the skin and the seeds from the custardy flesh. The skin is edible, but doesn’t taste good and the seeds should not be eaten. Have fun and mix them with all sorts of other fruit!
Watch my video for the entire recipe, and start growing some pawpaws!
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