Prepare for Pawpaws!
It’s that time of year again, when we prepare for pawpaw trees to start dropping their fruit! Ripening around September through mid-October, pawpaws are the largest native fruit in North America and are highly valued by Native Americans. They are small trees that can be spotted by their dark-green leaves and deep purple spring flowers. It’s said the kidney-shaped fruit has a sunny, electric, and downright tropical taste resembling a cross between a mango and banana.
The tree has few pests and has been planted by many homeowners due to it being a minimal maintenance tree. Loved by both animals and humans, the tree should be netted to protect it from animal consumption.
If you have a pawpaw tree planted but are not seeing much fruit, you may need to give it some assistance. In an urban setting, the pawpaw may need to be pollinated by hand to produce fruit. Unfortunately for the pawpaw, many pollinators are not attracted to the scent of its flowers. Complicating matters more, is the fact that pawpaws are often self-incompatible, which means they require cross-pollination between different pawpaw trees and cannot pollinate themselves. If your tree struggled to produce a good amount of fruit this year, it is recommended that you thin out the young pawpaw fruits to send more energy to the remaining fruit for better growth, and if you have the room, add another pawpaw tree nearby to help with cross-pollination for next season.
You can find pawpaws either at your local farmers market or by searching for pawpaw trees by bodies of water; always be sure to check local foraging laws. A friendly reminder, please do not forage for fruit on private property, and never eat anything that you are not 100% able to identify. Better to be safe than sorry! Remember – be extra careful when consuming pawpaws, because the fruit’s skin and inner seed pit can be toxic to humans.
There are also a number of recipes that use pawpaws! In the past, Casey Trees has made pawpaw mead, which received mixed results. Reactions ranged from “really dry sauvignon blanc” to “I’m surprised that I don’t hate it.” We also have made our very own Pawpaw muffins! Just use a banana bread recipe but replace it with Pawpaw pulp to get a delicious and unique muffin. Other recipes worth trying include pawpaw ice cream or pawpaw pie.
For homeowners, Paw Paws are eligible for a Tree rebate of $50 – check out our program! The trees max out at 25 feet in full or partial sun and could fit in many yards and landscapes across the city!