Paw Paw Tree: The Native American Fruit

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Paw Paw Fruit

Paw Paw Tree: The Original Native American Fruit
The Pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba) that produces Paw Paw fruit is relatively unknown to the majority of modern Americans, and we wish to change that. Paw paw is a deciduous tree (drops leaves in cold winter) that is a native plant to the Eastern part of the USA. It is the largest edible native fruit in North America and is common in the temperate climate region of the USA.

 

If you decide you want to order a few of the pawpaw tree make sure you specify them as Asimina triloba, which is a species in the plant family Annonaceae. In other parts of the world Paw Paw is thought of as Papaya which is a totally different tropical tree that does not live in cold weather.

 

Paw paw fruit has a hue of yellowish green to brownish fruit that is generally three to six inches long and can weigh from a few ounces to around a pound. It is often described as a yellow to white custard type consistency with a taste some compare to banana and/or mango. Paw paw fruits are considered rich in nutritional value, including high levels of vitamins A and C, and they have some protein. It is abundant in minerals depending upon the composition of the soil it is grown in. Paw Paw does not have all the fruit ripen at once so you can pick some of the ripe fruit and still have some that will ripen later. Make sure, if ordering, you specify Asimina triloba when purchasing, otherwise you might be getting tropical Papaya.

 

Harvesting Paw Paw: Paw paws are best when they are at the peak of ripeness and they will simply fall from the tree. soon after they drop then they get smashed and mushy when they hit the ground. The best thing is to pick the fruit when they are almost completely ripe You can know this by the ones whose stems of the fruit break off with no resistance from the branch.

 

Fully Ripened pawpaws will only last for a day or two or maybe three days at most in room temperature. They do much better in the refrigerator and can last for about a week, if fully ripe. Firm pawpaws will not ripen well when off the tree, so know that the tree ripened pawpaws are the best when slightly soft.


They shall have just a little flexibility under the skin, almost exactly like a perfect peach. The delicious fruit of a pawpaw tree will not ripen exactly all at the same time, so return a few times to get all of the fruit. 

 

Zebra Swallowtail Butterflies are attracted to the tree as it is the food source for their caterpillar larvae, however they do not seem to do much damage to mature trees. They are thought to help pollinate the tree to produce their luscious fruit.

You will need at least two unrelated mature trees to get them to bear fruit as cross pollination is necessary. They are considered as having both male and female characteristics in each tree. the paw paw tree grows best with a slightly acidic soil, with ph 5.5 to 7 but it works with many soil types. Ideal sites for mature trees are sunny with moist, well-drained soils.

 

Once the paw paw tree is established it has few pests and is easy to grow organically. They tend to need help getting started and after a couple of years, they require very little attention. They can grow to about thirty feet tall with fifteen feet being average. Don’t try to eat the skin and don’t eat the seeds of Paw Paw as many complain of digestive problems. Try a little of the fruit and see if you are allergic is a good suggestion. Handling of the skin causes a rash in some people, similar to mango tree sap.

 

History: pawpaw was under agricultural cultivation by native American Indians when the first Europeans arrived and was an important food source for them. According to historians, pawpaw fruit was a favorite dessert of President George Washington. President Thomas Jefferson was known to have planted paw paw trees on his estate of Monticello in Virginia.

Paw Paw fruit might just become your next favorite dessert. Try them sometime as they do not take that many years to grow. Generally six Years from seed to you having a fruit bearing tree. Try it you might like it.

 

Paw Paw fruit has a rich creamy texture that makes it perfect for homemade desserts such as pudding, ice cream, pies and fruit smoothies. Being as healthy organic paw paw fruit is, I am surprised it is not more commonly known. Baking with pawpaw is easy by substituting it for bananas or applesauce using your imagination.

Wild Paw Paw trees are avoided by deer grazing due to their taste and chemical compounds of their leaves and branches. This allows them to grow relatively unhindered in the wild, while their forest competitors are grazed on by deer. Yet the fruit of the paw paw is loved by deer, possum, raccoons, squirrels and many people in the know.

The pawpaw tree can be a favorite among the household gardeners all across the Southeast. This is due to the lush dark green foliage and the tropical appearance of the tree as well as its abundant fruit. Why plant trees that provide nothing in return when you can enjoy fresh food? 

 

Paw Paw can be a home landscaping source of seasonal color. This is due to the Green leaves turning into a bright yellow in autumn. Then their brown flower buds open up into deep dark burgundy flowers from March to May.


A ripe pawpaw has an extremely short shelf life. this makes it difficult to sell at local farmer’s markets or at big chain grocery stores. You can bake with them or freeze them for extended storage. That is most likely the real reason they are not sold in stores commercially. This is why you should grow your own fresh organic paw paw fruit. You will know when it is time to eat a pawpaw and that is when you can smell it. The strong almost floral aroma tells you that the fruit is ready. Enjoy.

 


The trees can be a problem to transplant due to their delicate feeder roots that are easily damaged causing tree death. Once established the trees are very hardy, yet they need protection from direct sun for the first two years. This is why they are called under story trees that grow under larger established trees in the forest in the wild.

The perfect place for a fruiting mature pawpaw is in a sunny location that is protected from the wind with access to rich, well-drained soil. Spacing of paw paw trees is suggested to be a minimum of six to eight feet between trees with about twelve feet between rows. Home gardeners should be flexible and if a pawpaw is allowed to become a patch or allowed to sucker it can turn into a hedge. Make sure you have a couple of unrelated trees for cross pollination as this is important.

 

Pawpaw can easily be grown from a seed.
Here are a few suggestions to consider.
Never allow your seeds to dry out as this kills the seed.
Too moist and you can get mold. damp is best.
Create a space in your refrigerator as paw paw seeds need to to have a time of cold to mimic winter in the wild.

Placing the seeds in the fridge up to three months of below 41°F will do the trick.

This happens naturally as ripe fruit falls on the forest ground below and seeds spend the winter covered with leaves. You can recreate the winter process quite well in your refrigerator. DO NOT FREEZE the seed as this can also kill the seed.

 

Come spring you can plant in a container or in the ground.
Sometimes a seed will not germinate for up to 3 months, so be patient.
Bees do not pollinate the paw paw as flies do the work.

Pawpaw trees are known to develop a deep taproot with delicate secondary roots and if you attempt to dig one out to transplant a mature plant you shall often result in failure with the death of the tree. The great majority of paw paws are sold as young seedlings.

 

The suggested time to plant your young paw paw trees is spring. In the first couple of years, young paw paw seedlings are very sensitive to the UV rays in strong direct sunlight as well as a lack of moisture. If growing from a seed or if planting young seedlings you should provide shading for at least the first two years and make sure the tree never dries out.

If you wish for the tree to grow as a single trunk stem, then remove the branching suckers that will sprout during the early years. If you leave the suckers alone on the paw paw tree then the tree will act like a hedge. Seedling trees started from seed will produce fruit in five to eight years. 

 

For more information:

http://www.uky.edu/hort/Pawpaw

https://caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu/2017/09/native-pawpaw-tree/

https://www.nps.gov/articles/pawpaw.htm

https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/pawpaw

https://extension.psu.edu/the-native-pawpaw-tree