The Pawpaw: America's Most Delicious Native Fruit

By Shannon McCabe

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Hidden in the understory of America's backwoods, there lies a tropical delicacy--an elusive fruit that was spread across ancient North America by Native Americans. A popular America fruit of antiquity, the uniquely sweet and nutritious flesh saved countless pioneers from starvation and won the hearts of such auspicious eaters as George Washington and Mark Twain.  The Shawnee even recognized the pawpaw moon in their calendar, what we know today as September. 

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Image Courtesy of Blake Cothron of Peaceful Heritage Farm.

The pawpaw is the largest fruit native to North America.  It is powerfully nutrious and boasts an unparalleled banana-mango custard flavor--and yet, this superb seasonal treat has recessed into obscurity.  As we ship exotic fruit from far reaching lands, the pawpaw remains in America's riverbds, tucked int the woods, still savored by just a few savvy foragers--a phenominal, tropically flavored native fruit, waiting to be rediscovered.

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Fortunately a few dedicated breeders have decided to bring the pawpaw out of obscurity and into the orchard!  The idea of bringing this wild treat into our backyards is not a new concept.  The first written report of pawpaws was in 1591 by a member of Hernando De Soto's Spanish Expedition through the present day Southwest U.S. He observed Native Americans planting and cultivating pawpaws. Indeed, the pawpaw tree can be well suited to cultivation and through careful selction, domesticated varieties are much larger than their wild ancestors. 

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Image Courtesy of Blake Cothron of Peaceful Heritage Farm.

Blake Cothron of Peaceful Heritage Nursery raises pawpaws on his family owned and operated certified nursery in Kentucky.  Chefs and foodies are also rekindling Amerca's passion for pawpaws, from ice cream to custards, puddings to breads... but pawpaw purists claim that the only way to eat a pawpaw is out of hand. Baker Creek has sourced the highest quality seeds from Peaceful Heritage Farm, the seeds will be a mix of varieties for optimal cross-pollinations and fruit set. Detailed growing directions will be included.

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Image Courtesy of Blake Cothron of Peaceful Heritage Farm.

 

Grow Your Own Pawpaws from Seed!