Dear PoP – Behold the Pawpaw Fruit

“Dear PoP,

A coworker of mine gathered some ripe pawpaw fruit at Scott’s Run Park in Fairfax Cty this weekend and my wife and I enjoyed one last night. They’re delicious native foods and are now in season. Pawpaws are the largest edible fruit in North America. They’re the only tree in its family to grow outside of the tropics. In some places in Asia, one out of every three or four trees is from the pawpaw’s family. I haven’t found any in DC but I’m positive there are some around.”

Very cool. Anyone else ever eat one before? Anyone spot these anywhere in DC proper?

16 Comment

  • not in DC propper … but there were a few at Ft Belvoir a few years back. The only ones we were able to harvest went bad before we figured out how to eat the things. Bummer

  • I’ve seen these in plant catalogs before, and read that they were likely a staple fruit for George Washington and pals. If I had any land, I’d definitely plant one. Nice to know someone is bringing them back!

  • A friend of mine gathered up a bunch this weekend at Piscataway Park in Maryland. He said there were tons on the ground and in the trees. I’m going to save the seeds and try to germinate them in the spring. They have beautiful purple flowers in the spring.

  • There is one in DC, but it isn’t ripe yet and I’m not telling where it is.

    • FD–

      So it was you. I mistakenly blamed the raccoons.

      BTW, the trees, which grow to about 30 ft., are instantly recognizable because of the huge 2 ft long leaves.

  • My parents had a bucnh of these in the woods behind our old house in Calvert County but we never ate them – do they taste good? what do they taste like?

  • I grew up eating them (in NC). They are delicious–taste like custard. They go from ripe to rotten in like 36 hours, so they aren’t easily marketed, but they are worth looking for. Someone sold some at the Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market a few years back.

  • Lots of pawpaw trees in Rock Creek Park. They tend to grow in little groves and the fruit is usually eaten by animals, but I have seen 5 in the past few days. Technically illegal to collect them from a national park however. You will also find them pretty much anywhere along the banks of the Potomac.

  • Also there are a lot by the canal towpath and Billy Goat trails.

  • That cut fruit ain’t a pawpaw (papaya) – that’s a damn cherimoya or custard fruit. Sheesh…big difference. Pawpaw=fruity/flowery/perfumy taste with a canteloupe-like (or even pinkish) color and consistency, podlike shape on the outside with a bunch of small seeds on the inside that you scoop out. Cherimoya=creamy fleshy with a vanilla/pineapple taste – so delish, I’d wrestle you for one – (although I must admit that i’ve never seen them resemble the 2nd photo – those look like damn mangoes to me)

  • mewantfood – I can say with 100% certainty that it’s a pawpaw fruit. Cherimoyas are native to South America. Pawpaws are totally unrelated to papayas but their name derives from papaya, probably because they somewhat look alike. Papaya is in Caricaceae family and pawpaw is in Annonaceae family. Pawpaws are also called various kinds of bananas (poor man’s bananas, missouri banana, etc.) but are similarly unrelated. Bananas are in the family Musaceae.

    • Cherimoyas do grow in non-tropical regions, but not as readily (I know of one SoCal grower). The pic does look a lot like cherimoya (or “custard apple” as commonly referred). They’re really good when well sourced. I’d welcome a locally grown comparator

  • @cookietime, I stand corrected.

    Although in my defense I’ve always known papaya=pawpaw. google is a great thing.

    Learnt something new today. Thanks!

  • My dad grows pawpaws…in Ohio. But closer by, I have heard rumors of pawpaw trees near the butterfly garden at the Natural History Museum on the Mall.

  • That looks real unappetizing. Ew.

  • I am a huge fan of the Pawpaw. I have planted a small grove, a real Pawpaw patch, in my back garden. I have one tree that is mature enough to produce fruit. However, you need two to cross pollinate. I planted two more seedlings this spring, but they’ll be too young to flower for three to five years yet. So I have to wait on the fruit. And then I’ll have to beat the squirrels, possums and raccoons to the fruit when they arrive.

    In addition to the fruit, they are beautiful small trees. The huge leaves turn bright yellow in the fall. I encourage others to plant more natives like the Pawpaw here in Washington.

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