Plant for creamy deliciousness, for soil retention and stream restoration, for resisting elitist dismissal of local abundance!
Hardy from Zones 4-8. 12-30 feet tall, similar width.
“Pickin' up pawpaws, puttin' 'em in your pocket
Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch.”
Pawpaws are our favorite way to sweeten September! We harvest the creamy fallen fruits as they tumble down and eat them fresh with spoons or turn them into ice cream. They taste something like a mango banana custard, but Pawpaw really has its own unique incredible flavor. These tropical-looking tap-rooted trees spread in patches throughout bottomlands and riparian edges, making a fine understory to Black Walnut. Once established, our Pawpaws require very little attention other than light pruning.
The earliest written account of Pawpaw comes from 1541, when Hernando de Soto’s colonizing expeditions encountered indigenous tribes in the Mississippi Valley cultivating the largest edible fruit native to North America. The Spanish conquistadors thought the fruit looked so much like Papaya that they gave it a similar name. Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) mashed the fruit into cakes that they dried and stored, later soaking the cakes to make sauces served with cornbread.
Very few critters like to eat the leaves or twigs, which can be used as natural insecticide and makes the tree pretty deer-proof. The one exception is the Zebra Swallowtail, which coevolved with Pawpaw in temperate North America. The small flowers smell like rotting carcasses, which is exactly the scent enjoyed by Pawpaw’s pollinators, carrion beetles and blowflies. You can’t find many Pawpaws in grocery stores these days because the fruits rot quickly and don’t ship well, which is partly why it earned the named “Poor man’s banana.” But such names are usually money-rich dismissals of abundant gifts.
We’re proud to plant Poor man’s banana along Blacks Run to spread this abundance, and we have plenty trees in our nursery that we’re growing from improved cultivars and wild groves on the forks of the Shenandoah River!