Pawpaw buds

One of the most beautiful and unusual flower buds in our yard is the pawpaw. They resemble a plush furry button –  and fur on plants always makes me smile.  Pawpaws are also called “Michigan bananas” and there is a city in Michigan named Paw Paw – given all this I assumed they would grow here. I also took more advice from my dog eared copy of Lee Reich’s Uncommon Fruits Worthy Of Attention. I noticed that Mr. Reich has a newer book out now called Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden, but I haven’t seen it. For some reason, perhaps because many of these uncommon fruits have not been bred (for characteristics I probably wouldn’t like), they tend to need little spraying for insects or disease. That is certainly  a welcome feature of our our trees.

Since I love bananas, paw paws were probably the first trees I sought out for the yard. There happened to be a grower specializing in them in our general vicinity in the early 90’s named Corwin Davis. I remember making the pilgrimage to his home one spring day and meeting quite an elderly man – someone who dedicated much of his time to his small pawpaw nursery. I came home with 2 varieties called Sunflower and Taylor and a sheet of information.

Our trees have thrived since then, setting fruit most years – most because mid Lower Michigan is at its northern most range. I love these trees because they ease boredom by giving our lower ravine a tropical look with long unusual leaves – most unexpected. And since the dropped seeds encased in the fruit are quick to germinate, we now have the classic pawpaw patch, which, if I am not vigilant from now on, could grow larger, larger, and larger.

The small trees (around 15-20 feet tall) are undemanding and if I fertilize at all, I throw them some alfalfa meal, like a zoo animal — plus they don’t need much water after they put down their long tap root.  I once tried to dig one up to move it to a better location, but after heroic digging, could not find the end of the tap root, nor could I pull it out (I was getting desperate). After decisively losing the match – my first (and only) loss to smallish plant ever! –  the tree stayed put and now produces a great many pawpaws.

Pawpaws are harvested at the end of the season, after a light frost or two. Then I scoop out the flesh, sometimes leaving in the large seeds (to remove later) and put them in the freezer. My varieties have a flavor a little like a banana, but more assertive – of course. These trees have a position , a point of view, and personality! I find they blend well with some real banana to remind them of their roots and bring them back to a familiar taste. They usually end up in a smoothie, but recipes do abound. There is a pawpaw foundation at Kentucky State University which has all sorts of lore and information to keep one occupied for some time. But for now, I have a “Scattered Frost” looming for tonight. My occupation could be The Compleat Worrier because it is now dark and the low was just revised downward.

5 thoughts on “Pawpaw buds

  1. Hello from PA. I just read your article after searching for info. about paw paw buds and frost. My paw paw tree is loaded with wide open buds because the weather here has been more like summer and not April the last week. Now tonight we are under a frost warning. I live in a wooded area so I think my tree will be okay. Anyway, I love paw paws. I was introduced to them a few years ago by my father and I got lucky in finding a beautiful tree at a local nursery. Now I want another and can’t find any anywhere to save my soul. I have not had any fruit from mine yet so I am hoping this year??!!I will try to pollinate my buds from an older tree in my area. Do you know if there are any paw paw trees for sale in your area? Have you ever tried making paw paw wine? I’d love to hear from you. Waiting for paw paws here in PA. Kat

  2. Kat- Nice to hear about your pawpaw tree! I’ve read about some new varieties developed since I planted mine, so I was considering adding a new one. Raintreenursery.com in Washington State sells them and I have always had good luck with them. I also googled Corwin Davis and found that his son-in-law took over his nursery and sells several varieties (I don’t know which ones). His nursery is Tollgategardens.com and telephone is 296-781-5887. Also Oikostreecrops.com sells them, phone – 269-624-6233. I hadn’t thought about these last 2 nurseries in Michigan so thanks for your question! I also learned there is an annual pawpaw festival in Albany, Ohio every September – their contact is pawpaw@frognet.net/. I’m sure there would be rumblings of the legendary pawpaw wine there! I’ve never dabbled in winemaking other than finding old fruit fermenting on the ground… Regarding pollination,two are required to set fruit, so it would be best to find another to plant nearby. I have never tried hand pollination but have always had fruit.Mr. Davis observed closely and found that green bottle flies pollinated his trees. He hung old meat from his trees to attract them. We must have plenty of flies because I have never gone to these lengths. We don’t spray chemicals around so maybe that also helps the diversity of insects. Best of luck with your pawpaws! Mary

  3. Hello from PA. I just read your article after searching for info. about paw paw buds and frost. My paw paw tree is loaded with wide open buds because the weather here has been more like summer and not April the last week. Now tonight we are under a frost warning. I live in a wooded area so I think my tree will be okay. Anyway, I love paw paws. I was introduced to them a few years ago by my father and I got lucky in finding a beautiful tree at a local nursery. Now I want another and can’t find any anywhere to save my soul. I have not had any fruit from mine yet so I am hoping this year??!!I will try to pollinate my buds from an older tree in my area. Do you know if there are any paw paw trees for sale in your area? Have you ever tried making paw paw wine? I’d love to hear from you. Waiting for paw paws here in PA. Kat

  4. Kat- Nice to hear about your pawpaw tree! I’ve read about some new varieties developed since I planted mine, so I was considering adding a new one. Raintreenursery.com in Washington State sells them and I have always had good luck with them. I also googled Corwin Davis and found that his son-in-law took over his nursery and sells several varieties (I don’t know which ones). His nursery is Tollgategardens.com and telephone is 296-781-5887. Also Oikostreecrops.com sells them, phone – 269-624-6233. I hadn’t thought about these last 2 nurseries in Michigan so thanks for your question! I also learned there is an annual pawpaw festival in Albany, Ohio every September – their contact is pawpaw@frognet.net/. I’m sure there would be rumblings of the legendary pawpaw wine there! I’ve never dabbled in winemaking other than finding old fruit fermenting on the ground… Regarding pollination,two are required to set fruit, so it would be best to find another to plant nearby. I have never tried hand pollination but have always had fruit.Mr. Davis observed closely and found that green bottle flies pollinated his trees. He hung old meat from his trees to attract them. We must have plenty of flies because I have never gone to these lengths. We don’t spray chemicals around so maybe that also helps the diversity of insects. Best of luck with your pawpaws! Mary

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s