This past weekend, my husband and some of his friends spent several days on the river, and on the bank they found a pawpaw tree. They brought me home a bag of them. I looked them up online. Here’s what I discovered.
The Pawpaw Tree
The pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a temperate climate member of a large, mainly-tropical plant family (Annonaceae), and produces the largest edible fruit native to North America. It is a small, understory tree, unlikely to ever grow into the forest canopy.
The Pawpaw Fruit
The pawpaw fruit is a late-season fruit, which begins to ripen in late summer and peaks in September and October. The flavor of raw pawpaw fruit is similar to bananas, but with hints of mango, vanilla, and citrus. The fruit looks like a small green potato and occurs in clusters on the tree. Successfully foraging for pawpaw fruits can be a challenge. Pawpaw is self-incompatible, which means that pollen produced on a plant cannot pollinate flowers on that same plant. Instead, to produce fruit, a pawpaw flower must receive pollen from flowers on another tree, and sometimes this “other tree” is farther away than it may appear at first glance! Although pawpaws frequently grow in patches, the trees in a patch are often genetically identical and connected underground making it the same plant. Pawpaw’s pollinators include flies and beetles and pollinate some flowers so that plant produces fruit.
Opossums, foxes, squirrels, raccoons, and birds all love pawpaw fruit and will be watching for ripe fruits. Pawpaw fruit can often be found on the ground under a fruiting tree.
Making Pawpaw Bread
When my husband brought the pawpaw into the house, I tasted the flesh of the pawpaw and it tasted like a cross between a papaya and a banana In my research of the pawpaw, discovered that the fruits don’t last more than 2-3 days once they are ripe, and since the pawpaws wouldn’t last more than a couple days and I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat all of them in that length of time, I decided to make it into a bread and because the flavor is so similar to bananas, I used my favorite banana bread recipe. Here’s how I made the bread. I made a double batch, but here’s the recipe for a single batch of pawpaw bread.
Pawpaw Bread Recipe
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
1 ¾ cup of all-purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoons double-acting baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening or vegetable oil
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 to 1 ½ cups pawpaws (seeds removed)
1-2 beaten eggs
½ cup chopped nuts (optional, I used pecans, but I am sure English or black walnuts would also work)
Pour mixture into baking pans bake for one hour or until bread is done.
The resulting bread immediately after taking from the oven tastes like banana bread but had a hint of what reminded me of grapefruit.
Saving the Seed to Grow My Own Pawpaw Trees
I have decided that I enjoy pawpaws enough that I want to grow a few of my own here in my permaculture orchard. I plan to plant them in the flower bed on the back side of the orchard. The reason I’ll be planting them there is that it’s a shaded area and pawpaw trees don’t like direct sunlight. In the meantime, though, the seeds need to be stratified. To do this, I rinsed the seeds and placed them in damp (not wet) paper towels. The instructions I read recommend damp (not wet) sphagnum moss, but I don’t have any of that so I am using paper towels. I now have them in the refrigerator and will keep them there for 90-120 days or until spring when I will plant the seeds. They can be planted in 10-inch pots, but according to what I have read, they do best if planted directly into the ground about an inch deep.
I hope to let you know if the pawpaw seeds and resulting plants faired in a future article.