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The Pawpaw (Asminia triloba)

 
Trevor Newman
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Surprisingly, most folks are totally unaware of the wonderful native American paw paw fruit. This may be because it is virtually impossible to find at the supermarket due to it's high perishability. However, it definitely deserves to be more popular  and widespread. Paw paw fruits form clusters on a 15-20' tall pyramidal shaped tree. In their natural habitat(deciduous forests of ENA), they typically form thickets in the shady understory of taller trees. Paw paws, unlike most other tree fruits, CAN be grown in shadier environments... however they will produce better in full to partial sun. The paw paw is in the Annonaceae family along with several tropical fruits such as Cherimoya, Soursop, and the Custard apple. Perhaps this is why the trees lend themselves a tropical look with extra large downward-facing leaves as shown in the picture below:

My mother standing next to a mature paw paw tree at Nash Nursery.They make for a beautiful yard tree!
"The pawpaw is the largest edible fruit native to America. Individual fruits weigh 5 to 16 ounces and are 3 to 6 inches in length. The larger sizes will appear plump, similar to the mango. The fruit usually has 10 to 14 seeds in two rows. The brownish to blackish seeds are shaped like lima beans, with a length of 1/2 to 1-1/2 inches. The ripe fruit is soft and thin skinned."


Pawpaw fruits often occur as clusters of up to nine individual fruits.


This has to be the largest paw paw fruit I have found.



The irresistable aroma of the fruit leads to a complex flavor profile that is hard to decribe...with hints of creamy vanilla custard all the way to banana and mango. However, these words do not really do it justice, you'll just have to try on and find out! Truly delectable!


Paw paws are also EXTREMELY nutritious:
"The water content is relatively low, 75%, comparable to banana. Most fruits have water content of 85%."
"Pawpaw's nutritional value exceeds that of apples, peaches and grapes in vitamins, minerals, amino acids and calories."

Now here is a little bit of history and folklore about paw paws:
"Pawpaws and nuts fed the Lewis & Clark expedition on their return trip in the fall of 1810 when in western Missouri their rations ran low and no game was to be found. "

"James A. Little wrote (1905) "We can never realize what a great blessing the pawpaw was to the first settlers while they were clearing the great natural forest and preparing to build cabins. Planting fruit trees was rather an experiment for a number of years. The pawpaw and a few other wild fruits of less value, were all their dependence so far as fruit was concerned. Well do I remember sixty or more years ago my father would take his gun and basket and go to the woods and return in the evening loaded with pawpaws, young squirrel, and sometimes mushrooms of which he was very fond. But there will never be a recurrence of those days which were the happiest of my life."



Mmmm.. delicous paw paw flesh. One way of eating it is simply to scoop the flesh out of the avocado like skin...


I highly recomend planting a few,or 20, of these trees. There are several techniques used for propagating(from seed,budding, cleft grafting, digging up suckers,etc.) the trees and various improved cultivars are available, the quickest way to see fruit is by planting a grafted tree rather than a seedling. Paw paw trees grown from seed will take around 8 years to produce fruit. Grafted trees can produce in 2-3 years. Paw paws are becoming more popular and they are NOT hard to find in the nursery trade. Here are a few recourseful links:
http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/pawpaw.html

http://oikostreecrops.com/store/product.asp?numRecordPosition=1&P_ID=305&PT_ID=108&strPageHistory=cat

http://www.pawpaw.kysu.edu/

http://www.petersonpawpaws.com/index.php
 
Chelle Lewis
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Was so surprised when I saw your pics.....

We have Papaya.... although also known as Pawpaw here..... hence my surprise.

Delicious. Very rich in enzymes. Easy to grow from seed. I have some. Fresh with a little lemon squeezed over.... Mmmmmmm!!! Favourite. Chelle (South Africa)







 
Charlie Michaels
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Those look tasty!

I'm always looking for possible options to increase diversity, and this would really help. Its like a temperate climate banana, very cool.

Problems I saw with it are that you need at least 2 for fruit production and that they aren't pollinated by bees. Either way its a really exciting fruit.

Thanks for posting Trevor.
 
Trevor Newman
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Yes, I have seen Papaya referred to as Paw Paw several times as well...those papaya fruits look like quite the treat!!
This is definitely a beneficial tree to plant considering it is indigenous, edible, and ornamental. They actually have stinky rotten meat like smelling blooms that attracts flies, their main pollinator. I have heard of folks hanging dead animals in their paw paw orchards to attract flies!?
 
                    
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if you haven't tried these I highly recommend them.  Some people can't get over the custard like consistency and you have to get them perfectly ripe for good flavor, but if you do that man are they good.  On top of that, finding a stand of paw paw in the wild..is amazingly beautiful.  They tend to form groves and fill in the understory of the forests where they grow and make for a very healthy looking ecosystem.  This has made them somewhat of a sought after treasure(at least in my area).  A lot of people keep their favorite paw paw hunting spots close to the chest.
 
              
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Location: swampland virginia
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wish I had some in my yard. native to this area and never seen one. missing native chestnuts too . anyone who wants to send me some seeds, i'm more than happy to accept them.

i do have a bunch of sassafras trees i'm going to make filé powder from and mulberry trees i'm going to make tea from this year.

saw this video series a while back when i was looking for something to grow in the shade on my property: PawPaw & Cancer: From Discovery to Clinical Trials Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8CKs5S74v8 - a lot more sections than that. good info for general nutrition and variety between plants and harvesting time etc.

what appears to be a good place to buy plants like that in the east would be http://ediblelandscaping.com/plants.php . I can not vouch for them yet, but they do have a variety of different plants with some nice notes.
 
                    
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I know someone who has paw paws planted from ediblelandscaping and they are huge and producing abundantly.  petersons pawpaws is another site that I've been recommended.  As far as seeds, I collected a bunch in the fall, but they have all been planted.  The seeds can not be allowed to dry out once you've harvested them and as with many natives will have to be stratified in order to germinate.

I'm sure I'll collect more next fall, if you don't have any by then and if I remember I will offer them up here.
 
Paul Cereghino
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I have read these are floodplain species -- any info or experience on their soil moisture tolerance or preference? PRC
 
Neal McSpadden
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Just so you guys know, I've been told that paw paws take 7 - 15 years to reach bearing maturity.  So be patient
 
Trevor Newman
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Tamo, this is very true. However you can greatly reduce your waiting time by selecting a grafted tree over a seedling. Seedlings will indeed take very long(8-12yrs). Grafted trees have the advantage because the scion wood used for grafting comes from mature trees, you can expect a waiting time of 2-6 years in this case. Either way, if you wait 10 years or 3, the tree will produce much longer than the time us impatient humans waited for it to start bearing.
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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I just got some pawpaw and dwarf pawpaw from Mail-Order Natives in North Florida
http://www.mailordernatives.com/servlet/StoreFront
I also got some native plums and other natives as well.  Hopefully they do well, could be hard to be that patient.

I suppose I'm in a rare climate where I can attempt to grow both PawPaw and Papaya  though all my Papaya plants froze back to the ground this winter
 
Travis Philp
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I've heard of farmers growing pawpaw in open fields but covering them with shade cloth in the first few years. Has anyone heard of this or experimented with it?
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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I believe I have heard of some sort of shades being used for stuff like paw paw to help them out the first few years.  This would probably also help some other types of more tropical trees too.
 
tel jetson
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Travis Philp wrote:
I've heard of farmers growing pawpaw in open fields but covering them with shade cloth in the first few years. Has anyone heard of this or experimented with it?


probably easier to plant them in the shade of a fruiting shrub.  in time, the pawpaw will grow out of the shade into the sun that will increase fruit production.  I've used gooseberries and currants for this to good effect.  gooseberries are tastier than shade cloth.
 
Travis Philp
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I guess I'm just confused about this because I've read that pawpaw grows naturally in the shade of other trees but grows and fruits best out in the open. If this is the case then why would shade cloth be used, unless it's needed for the trees infancy as TCLynx said...
 
tel jetson
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Travis Philp wrote:
I guess I'm just confused about this because I've read that pawpaw grows naturally in the shade of other trees but grows and fruits best out in the open. If this is the case then why would shade cloth be used, unless it's needed for the trees infancy as TCLynx said...


you nailed it.  probably has to do with the deep taproot pawpaws throw down.  before that taproot is established to access deep water, being in the shade will be an advantage.  once that root is in place, though, bring on the heat and light and prepare for plenty of fruit.

the taproot also makes transplanting pawpaws difficult, as once it's damaged, the tree isn't likely to recover.  haven't tried it yet, but I think this fact recommends planting seeds in their permanent position and top-working the seedlings with selected varieties after a couple of seasons.  I would be willing to bet you could get fruit faster this way than planting grafted varieties.  seeds are relatively easy to come by, so I think I'll be giving this a shot over the next couple of years.
 
                    
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Paw paws take a long time to bear fruit.  But I'm in my 20s so planting seed is fine with me.  Don't let seeds dry out or your germination rate plummets.  It's more about wind than shade in the first couple years.  They have big leaves so the wind can blow them hard, hence the long tap root.  Be careful buying a grafted one, as tel said they don't transplant well.  A big leaf plant on a shallow rooted root stock spells trouble.  They do prefer sun, so yes Paul, a floodplain is the ideal environment for this tree.  Their 'natural' environment is a result of the native americans planting them on their fishing routes, so they are adjusted to shade and moisture.  Which in truth is their biggest asset.  A tree that bears fruit in the shade and suckers to form a grove can be invaluable....hence the hype..I love me some paw paw
 
                              
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I have a small grove of Pawpaws in my woods on the side of a steep ravine. In the 20 years I been here, they have have flowered but no fruit. I tried hand pollinating with no success. Do they need a pollinator of an unrelated plant ? If so, ideally, how near would that need to be?
 
Travis Philp
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Amadou wrote:
I have a small grove of Pawpaws in my woods on the side of a steep ravine. In the 20 years I been here, they have have flowered but no fruit. I tried hand pollinating with no success. Do they need a pollinator of an unrelated plant ? If so, ideally, how near would that need to be?



Theres another thread on pawpaw in the 'Organic Practices' forum section you may want to check out. Here's a post from there:

According to wikipedia:

"Pawpaw flowers are insect-pollinated, but fruit production is limited since few if any pollinators are attracted to the flower's faint, or sometimes non-existent scent. Those insects that are attracted are often scavenging fruit flies, carrion flies and beetles.

Growers of pawpaws sometimes place rotting fruit or roadkill meat near the trees at bloom time to increase the number of pollinators. Asimina triloba is the only larval host of the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly."


And according to the California Rare Fruit Growers (http://www.crfg.org/)

"Pawpaw flowers are perfect, in that they have both male and female reproduction parts, but they are not self-pollinating. The flowers are also protogynaus, i.e., the female stigma matures and is no longer receptive when the male pollen is shed. In addition pawpaws are self-incompatible, requiring cross pollination from another unrelated pawpaw tree.

Bees show no interest in pawpaw flowers. The task of pollenization is left to unenthusiastic species of flies and beetles. A better solution for the home gardener is to hand pollinate, using a small, soft artist's brush to transfer pollen to the stigma. Pollen is ripe for gathering when the ball of anthers is brownish in color, loose and friable. Pollen grains should appear as small beige-colored particles on the brush hairs. The stigma is receptive when the tips of the pistils are green, glossy and sticky, and the anther ball is firm and greenish to light yellow in color."
 
Chelle Lewis
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Is this the same tree called the Graviola tree and grown in the Amazon rainforest?

Edit: No found it to be Annona muricata L. ... the  soursop.... but called paw paw by some

Chelle
 
              
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Cyara wrote:
Is this the same tree called the Graviola tree and grown in the Amazon rainforest?

Edit: No found it to be Annona muricata L. ... the  soursop.... but called paw paw by some

Chelle


Chelle. According to wikipedia, they are in the same family, but different plants. The North American pawpaw seems to be a bit more cold hardy with a different flavor and slightly different fruit skin. They look very similar.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graviola
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pawpaw
 
Chelle Lewis
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Be good if it turns out to have teh same health benefits.

Chelle
 
                    
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A very nice article Trevor, I have the good fortune to have a pawpaw forest growing in the ravine below my house.  They really like the shade there.  We harvested some and ate them, and somehow we got one in the garden hedgerow.  There it is growing huge in the shade of an oak tree, with the morning sun.

My soil is heavy clay.  So, I would say Pawpaw trees are pretty hardy.  They even get planted by kids eating them, and spitting the seeds out!

The one in the garden fencerow gets morning sun, but not noon, or evening sun.

I would describe the taste as bananas with a touch of orange.  I use them to make banana bread, and so far, no one can tell that it is not banana at all.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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TrevorNewman wrote:
Yes, I have seen Papaya referred to as Paw Paw several times as well...those papaya fruits look like quite the treat!!
This is definitely a beneficial tree to plant considering it is indigenous, edible, and ornamental. They actually have stinky rotten meat like smelling blooms that attracts flies, their main pollinator. I have heard of folks hanging dead animals in their paw paw orchards to attract flies!?


That sounds like a good way to feed chickens, in the months before fruit production ramps up.

The fly larvae will also be higher in protein than the pawpaw, more appropriate for an earlier part of a broiler's life cycle.
 
Daniel Zimmermann
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The seem to be native to the Eastern United States.  I live in California, and I'd love to have some, but not if they might be invasive.  Anyone out here have experience with them?
 
                    
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It seems to me anytime you bring a plant across the rockies from either side it has a chance to be invasive.  That being said the definition of invasive is broken in my opinion, but that's another discussion. 
 
Neal McSpadden
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It's doubtful that a plant with a minimum 7 year life cycle could ever be invasive.
 
                    
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I don't think they are invasive per se.  Because they are pretty easy to kill.

I have a grove of them in the valley, but who knows how long that took?

They ones growing in the fencerow are where my kids spit seeds.  They will sprout and grow, I don't know how long to germinate.  I only know they were not there, and then a few years after eating them, I found them at about 6' tall growing in my fencerow.

About all you have to do is get alot of sunlight to the trees and that will stop baby pawpaw's from growing.  They require shade for the first years.  And then they will grow to look over the other treetops. 
 
Kirk Hutchison
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Antibubba wrote:
The seem to be native to the Eastern United States.  I live in California, and I'd love to have some, but not if they might be invasive.  Anyone out here have experience with them?


I doubt they would survive here in California without human help; at least they would probably not be able to spread themselves around. Anyway, trees with delicious edible fruit growing all over the place instead of pine trees or grass would not be such a bad thing, eh?
 
duane hennon
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a good site about all things pawpaw

http://www.ohiopawpaw.com/
 
Travis Philp
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So from what I've read, pawpaw should be shaded from full sun but only in the first two years. What the literature left out is whether this is two years from seed, or two years after a seedling transplant. Can anyone clarify this? I would think that its two years from seed but...Have any of you pawpaw growers started them in full sun right from the start and had success? If you shaded them for only two years, how did you do it? I'm thinking of using small pieces of reemay (floating row cover) but I could see that physically inhibiting growth.
 
duane hennon
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hi travis,

pawpaws need shade the first year if grown from seed. when they are 10-12 in high they can take full sun. I started my plants under  tomato cages with a little shade cloth over them. most plants you buy are usually 1-2 yr old and 12 inches high but shading them is usually a good thing to help while the roots get established. they can also be started in a area with some shrubs or tall grass for shade. leave some room around the plants and mulch them. once the pawpaws become established, cut down the brush.

pawpaws really benefit from heavy mulch as they don't like grass but don't mind other perennials, which makes them a good food forest plant

Chris Chmiel of Intergration Acres in Albany, Oh (founder of Ohio Pawpaw Festival) is building a pawpaw orchard in an old abandoned pasture overgrown with multiflora rose and brambles. He plants his pawpaws under these shrubs and when the pawpaws get big enough to take the sun, puts goats in the pasture. the goats eat everything but the pawpaws. some fencing to keep them from being stepped on is not a bad idea.
 
duane hennon
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pawpaw season has started!!!

i did my  "stealth permaculture" show on Sunday giving away samples of the fruit and some trees . of course, the best way to grow just happens to be a food forest bed. no lectures, just the tree needs this type of soil. when talking to people, I never use the world permaculture, unless they say, this is like permaculture. the local Master Gardeners want me to give a talk about them.  on Sunday, several hundred  0's, 1's or 2's on the Wheaton eco-scale were  gently nudged upward
two more events in the upcoming weeks
this past weekend was here
http://www.munnellrunfarm.org/
 
              
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Location: swampland virginia
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thanks duane. now i have to work the network to get some seeds.

any knowledge of how well this tree grows and fruits in the shade / understory of gums, maples, yellow poplar, etc?

does it have any trees it does not like (like black walnut)?

do you plant anything under them once they get going?

any known uses for the seeds other than new trees?
(tried my first pawpaw last year, and have to say, seemed like a great fruit to eat.)
 
duane hennon
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pawpaws are understory trees so growing them under other trees is not a problem, but they produce more in the sun. here in west pa zone 5 i try to give them all the sun they can get. a southern edge of woods or trees. i use them in garden beds as the top story with berries and herbs under
i've not heard of any problems  under black walnut

i will have stratified seed in the spring for planting  =shipping costs
 
Casey Halone
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would getting pawpaw seeds from a tree growing in the same zone be of great benefit? I understand there are several flavors?
 
Benjamin Burchall
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I like green papaya a lot! Not so hot on ripe papayas. They taste like rancid canteloupe - another fruit I don't care much for.
 
              
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the one i tried tasted like banana custard or banana pudding. think it was ripe, a bit smaller than some of the ones i have seen in photos and lots of seeds.
 
duane hennon
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i call them "banana pudding on a tree."
the riper, the softer they get and the stronger the flavor.
similiar to how  a banana ripens
the fruit is highly variable in size with small golf ball size to softball size on same tree
seeds are numerous which makes the small ones hard to use except for fresh eating
some varieties have been selected for less seeds
i don't know how much of an advantage getting seeds from same zone but probably there is some. same with trees. i got my from Virginia and didn't have any problems with them surviving the winter.in zone 5  plant on slope rather than bottom of hill so cold air flows past them. the bottom of a valley can be -10 F colder than higher up
 
Paula Edwards
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There are named cultivators of the pawpaw. The only source of getting them in Australia is Yamina. (Expensive though and they don't do orders under $200). I tried growing pawpaw (not the papaya that's easy) from seed but they didn't come up.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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