I don’t get it. Whenever I walk through the produce section of a grocery store, I am fascinated by strange looking foods. I regularly get sidetracked by fruits and vegetables that I don’t recognize,and I end up spending ridiculous amounts of money to try strange new things.
- $6 for a pomelo?
- $4.99 for a tiny kiwano?
- $5 for a giant bundle of Chinese long beans?
Yep, I’m sold. If it’s weird and unfamiliar I WANT TO TRY IT!
Nerd alert: When I was in college, my dad would occasionally drive into town on the weekends and we would go hunting for pawpaws. Seriously, this is real. My dad would bring his “Book of Trees” (a real book) and we would hike through the woods in search of the elusive pawpaw.
Oh, and guess what? We found ‘em! Yeah, we are that good at hunting for weird fruits. Don’t be jealous.
Unfortunately, the fruit we found was under ripe and tiny. It tasted ok, but it wasn’t anything to brag about.
Fast forward to last weekend when my sister discretely made fun of my pawpaw hunting days by purchasing 2 full-sized pawpaws for me at the farmer’s market.
The jokes on her though, because I tried the farmer’s market-worthy pawpaw and I liked it.
Pawpaws for life!
So now, I’m sharing the pawpaw experience with you.
The Elusive Pawpaw
Location: The pawpaw is native to North America. Supposedly, the pawpaw grows in the temperate woodlands of the United States of America, but it is a fickle fruit. It requires 160 frost free days per year, 400 hours of winter chill per year, and it is sensitive to dry winds and low humidity. I guess you could say that the poor man’s banana is a bit of a snob when it comes to weather.
Facts and Rumors:
- Thomas Jefferson grew pawpaws in his backyard and ate them regularly.
- The leaves of a pawpaw tree are big and uniquely shaped. Some people say the pawpaw tree looks like a tropical plant.
- Pawpaws are only ripe for a very short period of time, and they don’t travel well. Therefore, they are rarely found in stores. Pawpaws taste best when picked fresh from a tree. If you can find one, eat it on the spot!
- In the movie The Jungle Book, Baloo gives Mowgli a pawpaw. The pawpaw that Mowgli receives looks suspiciously like a papaya. Don’t be confused! In Australia, Jamaica, and apparently jungles where animals can talk, the fruit that Americans refer to as the papaya is called a pawpaw. So, it’s fair to trust a talking bear if you ever encounter one, just be aware of your surroundings.
- People say that a pawpaw tastes like a custard version of a banana mixed with a mango.
Taste: Personally, I think a pawpaw tastes like a banana mixed with plain yogurt (not vanilla yogurt). The pawpaw has the consistency of an avocado.
Here, you can see a rare pawpaw resting on my kitchen counter. It’s green, slightly under ripe, and fits conveniently in the palm of my hand.
This is a perfect illustration of a horizontally sliced pawpaw. One strategy for eating a pawpaw is to hold half of the fruit in your hand and scoop out the custard-y fruit with a spoon. Yum!
But be careful! As you can see in the fruit slice on the right, the pawpaw contains large seeds. Don’t break a tooth on the seeds, and be sure not to choke.
All of these seeds came from one pawpaw! The seeds of a pawpaw are dark brown and slightly larger than a dime.
The results were this delicious tropical blend with a hint of eastern United States flavor.
As of now, I can’t tell you where any pawpaws are growing, but I did plant all of my pawpaw seeds in my backyard. Check back in a few years and I will tell you with 100% certainty whether or not the pawpaw grows in eastern Michigan.