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Bringing the tropics home

I got to try something new today.


This isn’t a rotten potato, or a misshapen apple. This is a pawpaw. Pawpaw trees are native to eastern North America, and are sometimes called “Kentucky bananas” (or Indiana, or Michigan, or various other geographic modifiers) for their vaguely bananoid shape. A co-worker has a tree, and when he learned that I’d never had the opportunity to try one, he saved me a fruit. (Same source as the fig – he likes to grow things.)

This particular specimen did look more like a green potato than any kind of banana, slightly soft to the touch, with a definite fruity aroma. It smelled a bit like a ripe mango.


Inside, a gooey yellow, with enormous seeds. Banana-like fruit shouldn’t have seeds – isn’t that a law of nature or something? The pulp smells and tastes like a cross between a mango and a banana, remarkably tropical for something native to Pennsylvania (all its close relations are tropical). The consistency is soft, moister than a banana and smoother than a mango. It would mash admirably for use in baking, if I’d had more than just the one.

6 Comments on “Bringing the tropics home”

  1. #1 Nathalie (Spacedlaw)
    on Oct 3rd, 2008 at 1:18 am

    Amazing! I’ve never seen (let alone eaten) one. To me pawpaws are just a line from the Jungle Book song Bare Necessities…

  2. #2 Tamie
    on Oct 3rd, 2008 at 10:54 am

    tastes like sweet banana custard — I will stick to begging for figs.

  3. #3 Laura
    on Oct 3rd, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    I’ll try to post again…

    This reminds me of the innards of a cherimoya, but the cherimoya is cuter. It looks like a lizard fruit. Wikipedia has some pictures–including of a 2,000+ year old ceramic Moche cherimoya! Cherimoyas taste wonderful, but I can’t figure out how to describe it. Custardy is apt.

  4. #4 cyndy
    on Oct 4th, 2008 at 6:12 am

    Looks a bit like a squashed may apple.

    Do they really grow in a paw paw patch? Did you pick it up and put it in your pocket?

  5. #5 Phiala
    on Oct 4th, 2008 at 6:21 am

    Cyndy, this one didn’t, it grew on a friend’s tree. And I’m afraid I never put it in my pocket either. He might have, though. :)

    And also, no prickly pear-pricked paws were involved. But I think Baloo must have been eating a papaya, called pawpaw many places, since proper pawpaws only grow here.

    Laura, they’re related to cherimoyas, so not surprising.

  6. #6 Elizabeth Campbell
    on Oct 26th, 2008 at 8:40 am

    My mother and brother recently moved to Athens, Ohio and fed me one of these when Duncan and I were up there visiting. There is a PawPaw Festival nearby, and a really great farmer’s market. Mum loves the avaliability of fresh veg… Anyway, the folks in that area make jam, cookies, casseroles, roofing materials, any and everything from this fruit. Duncan liked it, Paul and I found it to be vile.