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Originally cultivated by Native Americans, the pawpaw fruit has been dubbed America’s “forgotten fruit.” The humble native fruit has a patriotic past: George Washington, one of the nation’s founding fathers, planted the fruit trees in his home garden.

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What Is a Pawpaw?

The pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a tropical fruit native to North America that goes by many names: The Hoosier banana, the Appalachian banana, and the Quaker Delight.

The pawpaw tree is a small, understory tree that grows throughout the eastern regions of the United States and southern regions of Canada, like Ontario. Pawpaws are related to the custard apple, soursop, and cherimoya, and produce fresh fruit from striking maroon-colored flowers that require cross-pollination from flies and beetles. The resulting berry is the largest edible fruit indigenous the United States, rich in vitamin C and with skin that ranges from a greenish-yellow hue to a deeply yellow-brown when ripe. Pawpaw seeds are relatively large, and easy to remove, not unlike those of a Fuyu persimmon.

Where Do Pawpaws Grow?

Unless you live in the Midwest, fresh pawpaw can be difficult to find, especially outside of its short season—a few weeks in late summer throughout Southern states like Florida, and into the early to mid-fall for places like Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, Indiana, Kansas, and Ohio.

Where to Buy Pawpaws

Pawpaws aren’t typically found in most grocery stores or farmers’ markets, but many rare fruit growers outside of the region have begun to experiment with small harvests, and frozen pawpaw pulp can be found online.

What Do Pawpaws Taste Like?

Pawpaw fruits take on a smooth, custardy texture as they ripen, with flavors reminiscent of bananas, mango, or papaya. Thanks to their sweetness, ripe pawpaw can be eaten raw, but the sweet, custardy tropical fruit is a star ingredient in smoothies and various desserts like pawpaw ice cream, moist pawpaw quick bread, and even pawpaw puddings.

How to Eat Pawpaws

To eat a pawpaw, slice it lengthwise into two halves, and use a spoon to first remove the seeds before scooping out the ripe fruit. Discard the skins.

Easy Pawpaw Bread Recipe

Makes
1 loaf of bread
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
1 hr
Cook Time
50 min

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup light or dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt (you can also substitute sour cream or cream cheese)
  • 2 cups pawpaw purée, mashed
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray or a little bit of butter.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla extract. Using a handheld or stand mixer, beat until smooth and almost fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating the first before adding the second. Add the yogurt, pawpaw purée, and fold just until combined.
  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until there are no floury pockets left. Stir in the pecans, if using.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake until a toothpick or paring knife inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, anywhere from 45-60 minutes depending on your oven. Check the progress of the pawpaw bread every few minutes after the 30-minute mark.
  6. Set the pan on a wire rack and allow the bread to cool completely before removing from the oven.

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