This October, the pawpaw (Asimina triloba) grove has continued to produce heavy yields, many more than we can eat. By we, I mean me and the possums. Bob is not a fan – these people do exist! Since the possums are usually more attentive gardeners than I am (after all, they are up all night), I try to survey the ripe ones, often fallen, every evening before the possums arrive for their nightly feast. But I often “forget” in the interest of starving possums and keeping the kitchen paw paw piles at a reasonable level.
I love to eat them fresh, which means within 2-4 days, but do freeze some for winter smoothies. Their flesh is generous, thick, creamy, and incomparable to any other fruit, not too sweet, but certainly not tart or sour, but rich with flavors indescribable but akin to butterscotch, bananna, and mango – though deeper and more profound. They freeze well, and keep frozen till the next harvest, but their taste is changed from the fresh experience. These are tough but delicate trees after all, going all the way back to the fossil era, when there were no freezers – they just don’t understand the concept. But I still force them into the modern age, and freeze them to make up smoothies with pineapple, papaya, and vanilla as companions. The base can be milk, nut milk, or a citrus juice. Or anything else you may come up with.
For many more recipes, attend the Pawpaw Festival in Albany, Ohio, where I intend to go next year, September 15-17 (2017). Find out more at Ohiopawpawfest.com. I’m hoping to come back with many recipes, such as perhaps a pawpaw salsa, which sounds intriguing. And maybe, pawpaw’s unique flavor could make some exquisite pairings with rare spices and Chinese tonic herbs – ashwagandha? There seems to be much to explore with this forgotten but rising fruit. Also available on the net is The Pocket Pawpaw Cookbook by Sarah Bir, with 12 recipes, such as pawpaw gelato, pawpaw cornbread, and pawpaw pudding, which she says tastes like pumpkin pie. Interesting! Her website is Sausagetarian.com. And she has an article on pawpaws at Pastemagazine.com titled: “5 Ways to Get Your Pawpaws On This Season“.
If you happen to be a nutrition nut like I am, you may be interested to know that pawpaw fruits are very nutritious, being especially high in potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, phosphorus, iron, and niacin. These values are substantially higher than our most common fruits: banana, apple, and orange. Their amino acid profile is mostly higher also. See Pawpaw.kysu.edu. For fiber, a very small pawpaw (3.5 oz.) has 2.6 grams of fiber or 10% of your daily requirement.
Even more than nutrition, the pawpaw tree has medicinal properties. The leaves, bark, and twigs are used to treat cancer, one of the most difficult tasks for any plant. They contain compounds called acetogenins which modulate the production of ATP in the mitochondria, the energy producer of the cell and which also regulates cell division. Pawpaw twigs also enhance digestive health and help eliminate parasites. The fruits contain papain, which helps with digestion, may improve skin, and supports healthy blood sugar levels. The twigs should be harvested when “biologically active”, which would be in May, just before the tree leafs out. Pawpaws are late to leaf out, putting out flowers first, so there would be no spring rush. Since I just discovered twig benefits in my latest research, I definitely plan to harvest some next spring. I plan to try a twig tea as a pesticide spray on my apple trees as well. For more information and stories relating cancer cures, see herbs77.com. For more on the research on acetogenins, see pawpawresearch.com.
If you are thinking of growing pawpaw trees, I have found that they love the heat and humidity of the Midwest and Michigan, where I live at about latitude 43, which could be their northern most range (before global warming!).They are also hardy to zone 5 and -25 degrees. They have taproots, which seem to protect them from drought, once they are a few years old, and bring up deep nutrients. Probably because of their perfect adaptability, I have experienced no pest or disease problems in my 20 or so years of growing them. Mine are at the edge of the woods, yet in the sun, in a lower area relative to the rest of our acre, but not in wet soil. I haven’t fertilized them either except for some Azomite minerals ocassionally. They are pollinated by flies and beetles – I haven’t noticed the beetles, but I never thought I would be glad to see flies. Mine are located along a deer path – and we have rabbits, but neither are the least interested! These trees are by far my favorite fruit producer. So easy, so beautiful with their tropical leaves, and so nutritious!
PS My varieties are Taylor and Sunflower (which I can’t tell apart) and have formed producing groves. RaintreeNursery.com has 8 or 9 varieties for sale.