Earlier this summer, Sarah got very excited when she noticed that the Pawpaw tree had fruits. She has been waiting for months for them to ripen. In the 10 years I have worked at Audubon, I don’t recall it ever having fruits. In fact, I don’t recall paying much attention to the tree at all… What a mistake, for it is a lovely tree.
Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a native tree of Eastern North America, though it tends to like inland, humid climes, more than the cooler seasides. The USDA range map for North America is misleading, since entire states are colored even if only a single county holds a specimen. Look at New York and Florida, for example:
Also, the USDA only shows places where plants are native or naturalized. Apparently it is grown in several states for the delicious fruit, which I tasted for the first time yesterday.
The Peterson Guide to Edible Plants says you should pick them when they are green, bring them inside and wait until they are brown to eat them. We didn’t read the book before going out, so we did it our own way:
That was my first taste of Pawpaw and you can bet it won’t be my last! (I wonder if any more of them will be ripe tomorrow?)
The seeds are large and disk-shaped:
Native Americans are credited with spreading the Pawpaw across “the eastern U.S. to eastern Kansas and Texas, and from the Great Lakes almost to the Gulf.” (source)
Pawpaws also produce root suckers a few feet from the tree. If these are allowed to grow, you will have a Pawpaw patch like the one in the folksong! Pawpaws are understory trees and don’t reestablish well after a clearcut.