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What is Pawpaw?

It might surprise you to discover that the pawpaw is the largest edible fruit indigenous to the United States, where it only grows wild.

And now I’ve told you that, I’ll bet you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of it before – and why it’s not stocked in stores across the country.

Pawpaw Photo

The fact is, pawpaw has to be picked when it’s soft and ripe. This means that it doesn’t travel well – so, unlike hardier fruits like apples and oranges – it can’t easily be transported nationwide.

The sad fact is, if you want to try pawpaw you either need to visit a farmers’ market near an area in which it grows, or you need to try growing it yourself!

What does pawpaw look and taste like?

Pawpaw is a large fruit, greenish-yellow in color and oval in shape. If you cut it open you will discover thick seeds and a custard-like, yellowish flesh.

Despite being North American, it has a taste of the Tropics – something like a banana crossed with a pineapple crossed with a mango (and maybe a little melon thrown in there too!).

Pawpaw Picture

George Washington was apparently a big fan of the pawpaw fruit, and so was Thomas Jefferson, who grew it at Monticello. History also tell us that it was enjoyed by Native Americans as far back as the 1500s, when Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto discovered them eating it in the Mississippi Valley. And pawpaw became an important food source for explorers Lewis and Clark when they ran out of supplies!

Pawpaw is good for you!

It’s a shame that pawpaw is not more readily available, because it’s packed with nutrients!

Pawpaw is a great source of vitamin C, amino acids, manganese, magnesium, iron and copper.

What are pawpaws used for?

Although they are not widely used, those lucky enough to have access to wild pawpaws use them in jellies and jams, or puree their flesh and add it to pastry when making pies and tarts.

Pawpaw Image

Is a pawpaw the same as a papaya?

The word ‘pawpaw’ is often used interchangeably with ‘papaya’… but they are actually two different fruits.

Papayas grow in more tropical climates, including Hawaii, the West Indies, India and South America. They look different, too. Whereas the flesh of a pawpaw is yellow, papayas are red inside. What’s more, pawpaw is larger, longer and rounder than the papaya, which is oval in shape.

Pawpaw Pic

Finally, papayas are sweeter than pawpaws, which have a more mellow flavor.

Whilst you may not be easily able to get your hands on a pawpaw, why not grab a papaya instead and use it to make a batch of this delicious Tropical Guacamole?