Eastern Shore Food Lab

Asimina triloba - Pawpaw

Why go at length to enjoy foreign tropical fruits, when we have a sweet, exotic tasting fruit growing in our own backyard! The pawpaw is an incredible permaculture plant that can do wonders for the ecosystem and our health. As the childhood song goes, hopefully you will one day find yourself “way down yonder by the pawpaw patch!”

Scientific Name:  Asimina triloba 

Common Name: American Pawpaw

Etymology: The plant received this name from a Portuguese explorer who found native Americans eating the fruit. Since the fruit resembled what he recognized as a papaya, they began to call it pawpaw! “Min” found in the genus name derives from the Algonquin word for “fruit.”

Melia Greene '20, Rowley Harvey '20, Annaliese Bush '22, and Julia Portmann '19 pulp pawpaws for projects with the Eastern Shore Food Lab. Melia Greene '20, Rowley Harvey '20, Annaliese Bush '22, and Julia Portmann '19 pulp pawpaws for projects with the Eastern Shore Food Lab. Edible Parts

Wildlife and humans alike enjoy the sweet deliciousness of the pawpaw fruit. It is described to taste like banana custard and/or some combination of banana, mango, pineapple, and/or pears. The pawpaw fruit can be eaten raw, but it is also often used in puddings, custards, pies, ice creams, etc. The fruit ripens when it reaches a brown color, and the soft pulp inside can be scooped out and eaten, avoiding the large, pebble sized seeds inside. It is worthy to note that some people experience skin irritation and digestive irritation when eating, handling pawpaws, so be mindful of this the first time you encounter one!

Historic Uses

The pawpaw was widely used by Native Americans. The fruit was very commonly eaten, the leaves and stems were used for medicine, and the bark was commonly used to make rope. Many European settlers and explorers learned from the Native Americans the wonders of pawpaw. George Washington planted pawpaws at Mt. Vernon, and figures such as Lewis and Clarke, Daniel Boone, and Mark Twain all reference pawpaw in historical writing!

Additional Information

Unlike many other plants, pawpaws can thrive in very moist and shady soils, as long as it is well drained. The pawpaw also provides food and habitat for wildlife. Additionally, the bark of the pawpaw serves as a natural insecticide, keeping certain bugs away, while other organisms that are usually preyed upon can take refuge here.

Planting Considerations

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-8
  • Forest Garden Layer: understory

Sources

  • Anon. n.d. “Plant Database.” Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center — The University of Texas at Austin.
  • Bloom, Jessi and Dave Boehnlein. 2016. Practical Permaculture for Home Landscapes, Your Community, and the Whole Earth. Portland, OR: Timber Press.
  • Hormaza, Jose I. 2014. The Pawpaw, a Forgotten North American Fruit Tree. Harvard University.
  • Sheu, Scott. n.d. “Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere.” American Indian Health — Recipes.
  • Sunshine Supplement Shop. 2018. “Paw Paw Cell-Reg™ (180 Caps).” Sunshine Supplement Shop.
  • WebMD. 2018. “American Pawpaw: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning.” WebMD.