Pawpaw trees are the largest edible fruit trees native to North America. They can grow up to 25 feet tall and they produce a green-black fruit that’s usually about 3-5 inches long. Crack one open and you’ll find a yellow, custardy inside with a very tropical flavor.
Pawpaws are fairly delicate fruits that bruise easily, which is why you aren’t likely to find them in the produce section of the grocery store. Luckily, they can be found throughout Ohio if you’re up for some foraging, or at certain farmers markets and festivals.
At room temperature, you can only expect to get 2-3 days out of your pawpaws. You can store them in a refrigerator for about a week. If you don’t want to eat them raw, you can always substitute papaw for a variety of fruits in recipes to make frozen yogurt, sorbet, and other desserts and baked goods.
When it comes to foraging for pawpaws, it’s important to make sure that you’re not in an area where picking is prohibited. You can’t forage in the Metro Parks here in Columbus, but there are state forests where collecting wild-grown fruit is allowed.
Andrew Moore, author of Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit, explained the perfect way to eat a pawpaw:
“The best thing you can do with a ripe, fresh pawpaw is just to eat it out of hand. Cut it in half, scoop it out and eat it like a custard in a cup, which is essentially what it is.”
If you forage or purchase pawpaws this year and fall in love, consider adding some pawpaw trees to your yard or garden. The trees have great pest resistance and they have a uniquely tropical appearance.
They also happen to be the only host plant for the zebra swallowtail butterfly, which means you’ll be giving these beautiful pollinators.
A visit to Integration Farms will give you an opportunity to see just how versatile this fruit really is. The farm produces a wide variety of pawpaw-based products, everything from salsa to pawpaw pulp.
Pawpaws are in season throughout September and October and one of the easiest places to get your paws on pawpaws has to be the Ohio Pawpaw Festival. This annual fest celebrates our delicious native fruit with live music, vendors, games, activities, food, and more. This year, the festival will be held at Lake Snowdon in Albany, September 17-19.
For more information about pawpaws, you can visit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website here.
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