Paw paws at Sundogs
September 19, 2017
Here at Sundogs we have Paw paw trees - and lots of them. That means we should have an annual supply of home-grown native fruits for quick breads, smoothies, and other temptations. They are just ripening now.
Recently we harvested a few and put them up for later use. Here is what they look like - about 3 to 4 inches long, about the size of a small fist. Paw paws fruits are green even when they are ripe; when they approach over-ripe they can become a blackish-green.
Seeding and separating
Fully ripe paw paws are mushy with big seeds. The seeds and skin are inedible and
therefore must be separated from the flesh. Since we had just a few ripe ones we did this manually with a spoon and our hands - cut the paw paw crosswise (not lengthwise) to avoid the seeds and scoop out the flesh and seeds from each end. Then pull out the seeds and put the seedless flesh in a bowl.
Freeze the flesh before it oxidizes (it will turn an unappetizing brown in about an hour, just like many fruits). We used ordinary freezer bags. We also cleaned off all of the seeds and plan to plant them this fall!
Not familiar with paw paws?
The following is excerpted from the Kentucky State University, the country's premier research institution for paw paws:
"Paw paw can be described as sweet and delicious with a taste between banana and mango, with perhaps a note of pineapple or citrus. The flavor is delivered in fruit with a creamy custard-like consistency.
It is a tropical treat—almost. All but a few of paw paw’s plant cousins are tropical.
The paw paw tree is a member of a botanical family whose members grow primarily in the tropics. The paw paw, Asimina triloba, is among its few species that grow in a temperate region. Indeed, the tree produces the largest edible fruit native to the United States. There is 50 million year old evidence of the paw paw. Native Americans, Jamestown settlers and Lewis and Clark ate the fruit. George Washington planted the tree at Mt. Vernon, Thomas Jefferson planted trees at Monticello and The Obama Administration added one to the White House grounds.
Trees typically grow 15-25 ft. tall and wide. Smooth edged leaves hang 10-12 inches long and 4-5 inches wide. They are grouped at the end of branches. Fruit grows in clusters, sometimes singly but usually in clusters of two or more.
Paw paws are typically understory or woods edge trees that grow best in rich slightly acidic soil that is moist but well drained. In nature they grow in filtered light. The first couple of years young trees need shade, but as trees mature more sun produces better fruit and yield.
In the wild paw paws sucker and form groves. The trees have a large taproot and delicate feeder roots which make them difficult to transplant. The suckers are all clones of the mother tree and part of its root system. The trees in a colony are self-incompatible with regard to pollination. It is not worth your effort to dig the suckers and try to grow them. Container grown trees with a larger and independent root mass are a better bet.
Seed grown plants begin bearing fruit 5-7 years after planting while a grafted tree begins bearing fruit in 3-4 years. Seedlings are much cheaper than grafted trees, but the variation in fruit size and flavor in seed grown plants makes a grafted cultivar worth the money. Generally researchers and growers recommend planting two trees or varieties for cross pollination.
Paw paws bloom in early spring. Their maroon blossoms are said to smell like rotted meat.
Their fetid odor attracts flies as pollinators.
The fruit is about 3-6 inches long, the size and shape of a mango. A paw paw can weigh as much as one pound, but in nature fruits usually weigh up to one half pound. A tree’s harvest season is short, only a week or so, in late August – October.
The unripe fruit’s pale green skin may or may not yellow with maturity. Consequently, skin color is a poor indicator of when to pick the fruit. Timing is better determined by the ease with which fruit releases from the tree and gently pressing the fruit to feel for softening. In time the fruit turns brown-black, like an overripe banana."