Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What is a pawpaw?

Who's asking: The cast of Crimes of the Heart, Hallowell, ME

Characters in Crimes of the Heart, which is set in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, go out back to pick up pawpaws. Someone asked what these were, and I said (from my ignorance) that they were papayas; Tim, who plays Doc, said he thought they were something closer to bananas.

Turns out, we're both right and we're both wrong. Although papayas are called pawpaws in Australia, the fruit called pawpaw in North America is also known as a Hoosier banana -- though it isn't a banana.

Asimina triloba, the pawpaw, is a deciduous (leaf-dropping) tree native to North America. It grows all over the temperate zones of the middle United States, from Indiana to Mississippi. It bears green fruit that look vaguely like small, stubby bananas -- these are actually berries, and their closest relatives are not bananas but custard apples or soursops. Pawpaws are the largest edible fruit native to North America.

I've never tried one, and am not sure I've ever seen one in the market -- but then, I've never lived in the center of the country. What do they taste like? Post your pawpaw experiences in the comments section, and let me know how I can get some in central Maine.


SteveHL said...

Not a pawpaw experience, but my entire knowledge of pawpaws before your post:

The Jungle Book Lyrics - The Bare Neccesities Lyrics

Artist: The Jungle Book Lyrics
Song: The Bare Neccesities Lyrics
Look for the bare necessities
The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your strife
I mean the bare necessities
Old Mother Nature's recipes
That brings the bare necessities of life

Wherever I wander, wherever I roam
I couldn't be fonder of my big home
The bees are buzzin' in the tree
To make some honey just for me
When you look under the rocks and plants
And take a glance at the fancy ants
Then maybe try a few

The bare necessities of life will come to you
They'll come to you!

Look for the bare necessities
The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your strife
I mean the bare necessities
That's why a bear can rest at ease
With just the bare necessities of life

Now when you pick a pawpaw
Or a prickly pear
And you prick a raw paw
Next time beware
Don't pick the prickly pear by the paw
When you pick a pear
Try to use the claw
But you don't need to use the claw
When you pick a pear of the big pawpaw
Have I given you a clue ?

The bare necessities of life will come to you
They'll come to you!

So just try and relax, yeah cool it
Fall apart in my backyard
'Cause let me tell you something little britches
If you act like that bee acts, uh uh
You're working too hard

And don't spend your time lookin' around
For something you want that can't be found
When you find out you can live without it
And go along not thinkin' about it
I'll tell you something true

The bare necessities of life will come to you

Anonymous said...

In case you find some

Joan Smith's Pawpaw Puree
1 heaping cup of Pawpaw
2T powdered milk
Juice of one lime
1T sugar
1T light rum
crushed ice

blend on high
Pawpaw Pie (http://www.gardenweb.com)
1C sugar
1 egg
1/4t salt
1C milk
1 1/2 C pawpaws (peeled and seeded)

Place all of the ingredients into a stew pan and stir together. Cook over medium heat until thickened. Pour into an unbaked pie shell and bake until crust is done. Top it with whipped cream.
Chilled Pawpaw Soup (West Africa) from African Studies at University of PA
(Chicken stock may be prepared from a packaged or canned chicken soup but is best when made from scratch as in Groundnut Soup)

Blend 1 quart chicken stock
1 pint sour cream
1 12-oz pawpaw nectar
1/2 C fresh pawpaw finely chopped

Add 1T each lemon juice and rind

Add 1t salt.

Chill thoroughly.

Garnish with slices of pawpaw.
Pawpaw Pudding
(from Cooking with Pawpaws, submitted by Mark F. Sohn)
2C sugar
1 1/2 C bread flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
2C pawpaw pulp
1 1/2 C milk
1/2 C melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. IN the center of a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: sugar, flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Into a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add and whisk the eggs. Whisk until fully mixed. Whisk and mix in the other wet ingredients: pulp, milk, and butter. Pour and scrape the batter into the baking dish and bake 50 minutes. To test for doneness, slide a toothpick into the center of the pudding, and it should come out clean. Like custard, if you jiggle the pan, the center should be set.

Serving: Cut the pudding into squares, and serve it with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, hard sauce, or creme anglaise.
African Black Soap
Cocoa, banana leaves, pawpaw tree, palm tree, palm kernel oil, purified water.

RB the chef

Pawpaw Lover said...

Uh, those recipes are for papayas, not for the North American pawpaw (Asimina triloba).

The flavor of the North American pawpaw is very subtle and, when used in a recipe, is typically not heavily spiced (e.g., lime juice, cinnamon, or chicken would totally overwhelm the pawpaw flavor) and very delicately cooked, if cooked at all.

Here're a couple of actual North American pawpaw recipes: http://www.integrationacres.com/recipes.html

AnswerGirl said...

Thanks to everyone for the information!

Am I right in thinking that we don't see pawpaws in supermarkets because they're hard to transport?

Kathleen said...

I had a good friend in college who grew up in a town called Pawpaw Illinois. I've never tried one though. I'm guessing we don't see them because no one really farms them on a large scale.

What was that fruit in "To Kill A Mockingbird?" Was it scupernogs? That always fascinated me.

AnswerGirl said...

Scuppernongs, I think, which are a kind of grapes native to the southeast.

When we first moved into the house in Virginia Beach, we had Concord grapes in the backyard. They were too bitter to eat and made a terrible mess, and Dad took the vines down to put up a jungle gym.

Anonymous said...

According to this website,
http://www.newfarm.org/features/2006/0906/uncommonfruit/reich.shtml there is no real reason why paw paws are not at Hannafords. The ripe fruit don't last long, but neither do ripe peaches. If picked immature like most Supermarket fruit, they would last a week or so. They are native as far north as PA.


twee said...

I just shipped 7 lbs to W.V. from Missouri.
These "berries" are very delicious and can be eaten gluttonously by diebetics. I harvest them every year and freeze the pulp.

Anyone wanting to fill an order for fruit (have to wait till next fall) or seeds, please email me at twee@socket.net.
Here is a qoute about from the official Pawpaw experts;

"The unique flavor of the fruit resembles a blend of various tropical flavors, including banana, pineapple, and mango. The flavor and custard-like texture make pawpaws a good substitute for bananas in almost any recipe. The common names, 'poor man's banana,' 'American custard apple,' and 'Kentucky banana' reflect these qualities.

Pawpaws are very nutritious fruits. They are high in vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper, and manganese. They are a good source of potassium and several essential amino acids, and they also contain significant amounts of riboflavin, niacin, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc. Pawpaws contain these nutrients in amounts that are generally about the same as or greater than those found in bananas, apples, or oranges."