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Intolerance to Pawpaw Fruit

 
Richard Kastanie
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I've long been enthusiastic about pawpaws, even attending the Ohio Pawpaw Festival a couple of years ago. I love the flavor of most pawpaws. However, before these past few years, I never had a chance to eat them in quantity. This is the second Pawpaw season that I've eaten a bunch, and have realized if I eat more than a few I react badly to them. Some others that I've talked to report the same thing. I just want to start this thread to hear others experiences, especially if you've made pawpaws a significant part of your diet, if only for a few weeks each year, or if you've processed them at all.

For me, it's not an allergic reaction. I can eat 3 or 4 a day for a couple of days and be fine, but if I keep it up they'll upset my stomach, as well as make me chilly and other neurological symptoms. These continue a few days after I stop eating them. This past weekend, I made a cornbread which included pureed pawpaws. This seemed to affect me dramatically more than fresh pawpaws do. Others are the cornbread and liked it, but after my reaction, I pressed them for an honest answer about if the pawpaw cornbread disturbed their system at all, and several said yes, although not as extreme as my reaction (I tend to be particularly sensitive to things like this).

I did some research and found out that the related tropical fruits soursop and graviola may be linked to an atypical form of Parkinson's in some sensitive individuals, and that the pawpaw has the same chemical, Annonacin, that may be responsible. I'm always skeptical of these studies that reduce the complexities of a whole food to a single chemical (the idea that Sassafras is carcinogenic is very suspect to me) but for the pawpaw it makes sense considering my own experience.

The Pawpaw does have a long history of being eaten, from American Indian times through pioneer days to now. I wonder just how much was typically eaten, if native people knew which stands were better quality, had a way of processing them, or were just highly adapted to eating them. I know plenty of people who like pawpaws but they mostly seem not to eat them in large quantities. I love my fruit, and will eat many servings of fruit a day if they're available. I just can't do that with pawpaws. Does anyone on this forum make pawpaws a regular part of their diet even if just briefly during harvest season? If so, does it work for you? I'm just trying to get to the bottom of this, there's more and more interest in pawpaws as an alternative crop, some even saying that it could be a superfood, but it seems to me that for at least a portion of people it just doesn't work to eat eat them more often then just as an occasional novelty, and processing and/or cooking may make it worse.

In the longer term, it should be possible to breed pawpaws with fewer toxins. Some varieties tested had more annonacin than others, if that is in fact the main culprit, selective breeding could result in a more agreeable pawpaw. Plenty of traditional foods (potatoes being one example) came from a wild ancestor with problematic levels of a toxin, and the selection that came with domestication reduced them. Also, traditional ways of food preparation often include processing that makes them easier to handle (think soaking beans). Possibly some of the native people in the pawpaw's native range had such a method that's now lost. So, I still think there's potential in pawpaws, but this issue needs to be put out there as the pawpaw has attracted more attention.
 
Akiva Silver
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I also started out highly enthusiastic about pawpaws. After having access to lots of them for the last few years, I am no longer excited about them. Both me and my wife now find them nauseating. We also have friends who feel the same way. They seem like such wonderful native trees, but I don't see how I would want to have them be a staple in my diet.
In my nursery I get so many requests for pawpaws that I keep growing them. They seem like a good wildlife tree and there are certainly worse things to grow, but I think the American persimmon is so much better to grow for fruit. We have eaten them in great quantity several years now, and they are always amazing with several uses.
You are certainly not alone in having negative reactions to lots of pawpaws. A couple friends made pawpaw fruit leather, and got so sick that they thought they had food poisoning. Apparently there are fats in the pawpaw that go rancid during drying.
At least all the fallen pawpaws can be eaten by livestock or wildlife if not by us.
 
duane hennon
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hi,

I grow pawpaws and go to fall harvest festivals to promote them
I've only had a few people have problems after eating them
to me pawpaws are almost a "food concentrate" and would never recommend
people nowadays eating more than one at a time

they're also not for everyone,
especially with the prevalence of allergies, diabetes, fructose intolerance, etc
moderation, as always, is key


http://www.ars.usda.gov/Main/docs.htm?docid=11368

Nutritional Aspects

The pawpaw has high nutritional qualities compared to typical temperate fruits such as apple and peach (Peterson, 1991). The fruit has a particularly low moisture content, high caloric content, high content for vitamins A and C, minerals P, Mg, S, Ca and Fe, and the essential fatty acids linoleic and linolenic. This fruit is also notable for a higher protein content than that of other temperate fruits and for an exceptionally favorable amino acid balance (Peterson, 1991).

A Word of Caution

While many people enjoy the taste of pawpaw, some individuals become sick after eating the fruit. Skin rash, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea can develop. In other cases, individuals may be allergic to the leaves or the fruit skin (Peterson, 1991).

Many tissues of this tree, especially bark, leaves, and seeds, contain a variety of alkaloids, phenolic acids, proanthocyanidins, tannins, flavinoids, and acetogenins. While these chemicals can cause allergic reactions, some of them are anticarcenogens and still others have natural or botanical pesticide qualities (McLaughlin and Hui, 1993; Zhao et al., 1994.)

 
John Saltveit
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You could have an allergy. Many people are allergic to tree nuts, for example. The study that showed the neurological problems had people eating the leaves quite a bit. I never eat the leaves. I don't even eat the skin. I have eaten a lot and I've never been sick. Two cultivars have been shown to have very little of the potentially affecting chemical: Wells and Sunflower. I grow both for that reason. I grow other seedlings as well.
John S
PDX OR
 
Blake Wheeler
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John Saltveit wrote:You could have an allergy. Many people are allergic to tree nuts, for example. The study that showed the neurological problems had people eating the leaves quite a bit. I never eat the leaves. I don't even eat the skin. I have eaten a lot and I've never been sick. Two cultivars have been shown to have very little of the potentially affecting chemical: Wells and Sunflower. I grow both for that reason. I grow other seedlings as well.
John S
PDX OR


Interesting. I've never had pawpaws before, but decided to use them in my developing food forest. Just so happens I chose both these varieties as they come to bearing age a bit quicker. Glad I chose them now.
 
Richard Kastanie
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Besides Sunflower and Wells, I have seen Wabash, Potomac and Zimmerman listed as having low annonacin. The only one of those I've eaten is Sunflower, but it was during a day that I also ate several other Varieties, so I can't say how my reaction compared. If I get the chance, I'll eat one of those varieties and none other for a few days before and after.

Some may have allergies, but personally I know my reaction isn't like the allergies that I have, its an intolerance. Allergies are a specific reaction of the immune system, intolerances are the result of whatever is in the food directly affecting your body. Some people are much more prone to intolerances than others. If I eat MSG, I get a neurological reaction, that's an intolerance to a neurotoxin, not an allergy. Many people are able to metabolize the same foods without any reaction, which is why I wanted to get more input on others' pawpaw eating habits and their reactions, if any. From what I've heard from various people so far, it sounds like pawpaws are much more likely to cause these issues than most other fruits, although it varies from person to person.

To those who have said they eat a lot with no issues, how much is "a lot" of pawpaws for you? Do you always eat them fresh, or do you ever puree them or cook with them?
 
duane hennon
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http://www.ars.usda.gov/Main/docs.htm?docid=11368

Nutritional Aspects

The pawpaw has high nutritional qualities compared to typical temperate fruits such as apple and peach (Peterson, 1991). The fruit has a particularly low moisture content, high caloric content, high content for vitamins A and C, minerals P, Mg, S, Ca and Fe, and the essential fatty acids linoleic and linolenic. This fruit is also notable for a higher protein content than that of other temperate fruits and for an exceptionally favorable amino acid balance (Peterson, 1991).


Pawpaws are not apples and shouldn't be treated as such
they are "different" than the normal fruit grown in temperate regions
they also haven't undergone the selection process that has blandified most commonly grown fruits
they have the potential to cause problems because they still contain stuff
just like wild greens and other wild foods may cause problems for some who eat them

one medium pawpaw is usually my limit because of the richness and sugar
how many cans of banana creme pie filling can you eat at a time?
 
John Saltveit
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Excellent distinction between allergy and negative reaction. Many people have a strong negative reaction to bitter flavors, for example, and it's not an allergy. It's just a food difference. The Traditional Chinese health system has some really interesting viewpoints about individual differences and how to adjust the diet for each person.

When you have mature paw paw trees and you do the hand pollination thing, you can get amazing numbers of pawpaws. I am still finding baby pawpaw seedlings from 3,4, and 5 years ago. We moved houses and we couldn't bring the trees with us. Ours were slightly staggered in terms of harvest time: one was typically all of September and another was basically all of October. We probably got 30-50 fruit off each tree, and each fruit is huge! They had more seeds than a selected Petersen variety, but it was still a lot of fruit!. No one, including the neighbors we traded them with, ever had any kind of negative reaction.

One variety tasted more like vanilla and banana and the other had a more complex flavor, like cider does when it has tannins and astringent cider apples. Maybe with some butterscotch thrown in or caramel. The studies made sure that people understood that the flavor improvements, if you think they are, that Petersen did, had no effect upon annonacin.

Great information, Richard.
John S
PDX OR
 
Francesco Delvillani
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I've never heard about intolerance to Paw Paw, but it's too rare to have a big "test" population....anyway i like it very much, obviously you can't eat 5 fruit each day for one month or more (the time of ripening)....but eating just one or two every day will not nauseate myself
 
Akiva Silver
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The truth is that I can easily eat 5 fruits a day of apples, pears, peaches, persimmons, plums, bananas, etc.
Pawpaws make me and my family feel nausea. We can't use them as a staple like other fruits. I am in the midst of planting orchards and can only think of pawpaws as an interesting side feature, but never as a centerpiece.
I think folks should know about this topic when planning out their plantings.
 
Richard Kastanie
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Thanks for all the replies, it's nice to hear othets' thoughts on this. A few more things,

Akika, your experience sounds similar to mine. I know my pawpaw reaction is more than simply a reaction to richness and sugar, as I know what too much sugar feels like, and it's nothing like the pawpaw reaction. Like you, I can eat a lot of American persimmons without any problems, and plenty of other wild fruit as well.

John Saltveit, I agree with you about different foods being good for different body types. I never meant to suggest pawpaw was bad for everyone, just that it seems to be a strong acting food that at least a portion of people react badly to. It also has medicinal qualities too, but like any medicine it can be the wrong thing for certain constitutions, and its something to be aware of. I'm wondering in what quantity most of your friends and neighbors that you've been giving them to have eaten? When I was only able to eat them as an occasional curiosity, I never had enough to notice a significant reaction, but when I ate 3 or 4 a day for five days in a row or so, I was pretty out of whack even for a few days after I stopped eating them.

I'm still interested if there's anyone who regularly purees and/or cooks them, and if you still tolerate them when prepared those ways, as my one experience pureeing and cooking them into a cornbread seemed to intensify their negative effects, and one other person I know says he eats them in moderation, but never purees them as it makes him sick.
 
John Saltveit
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Many people make ice cream out of them, or pudding like desserts. I think they taste great as they are, so I don't do anything to them.
John S
PDX OR
 
Joy Oasis
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This is very interesting. Since they are relatives with Soursop, it might be that is a medicinal fruit, and has to be eaten in small quantities. Interestingly, I just tried spaghetti squash couple of days ago, and it made me nauseated immediately - almost the second I swallowed it. I might try to cook it longer.
 
Ray Moses
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I have the same issue on Poppaw's after eating a bunch for a couple years I can't stand the taste of them hardly anymore but I freeze gallons of persimmons anytime you're around much more usable fruit with some guys here make fruit leather out of Poppaw and they got really sick had stuff coming out both ends
 
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