The pawpaw tree and its unusual fruit appears in historical lore concerning the likes of Lewis & Clark and Thomas Jefferson. The Courier-Journal, the daily newspaper for Louisville, Ken., recently featured the pawpaw, calling it “America’s forgotten fruit.” In a market where edibles are providing profitable niches for growers, it’s time to re-introduce this native tree to consumers across the country. The fruit, which ripens in early fall, is purported to be a cross between a banana and a mango, both in texture and taste. But opinions vary — some like the taste, while others are turned off. As the fruit sneaks its way back into culinary circles, there’s an opportunity to capitalize on this interesting plant and price it accordingly. Consumers are often willing to pay more for the unusual or the historic.
Why grow Asimina triloba?
- The fruit provides food for wildlife and humans.
- It’s a great choice for naturalizing.
- It’s native across much of the United States.
- Description: The coarse-textured pawpaw typically grows from 15 to 20 feet high with an equal spread, and creates an upright, wide pyramidal silhouette. The large, dark green leaves are 6 to 12 inches in length and 3 to 5 inches wide, and they give the tree an almost wilted appearance. Leaves turn a sometimes-brilliant yellow before dropping in the fall. The 2-inch-wide purple flowers appear in spring, and are followed by the production of 3- to 5-inch-long, round or oval fruits that are green when young but ripen to a brown/black with a wrinkled texture.
- Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zones 5-8.
- In the landscape: Plant in full sun for the best performance, although young trees need some sun protection. Plant in moist and slightly acidic soils, but pawpaw will tolerate wet, soggy soils.
- Propagation: By seed, layering and root cuttings.
Sources: Maryland Native Plant Society, University of Florida, Purdue University