Pawpaw, paw paw, papaw… have you heard of it?

Coconut yoghurt and persimmon breakfast
Coconut yoghurt and persimmon breakfast

Winter has well established itself here in Michigan with snow on the ground and temperatures below freezing. It seems that only a week ago I was trekking through the Rawnora landscape in search of pawpaws. What’s a pawpaw you say? That’s a fair question to ask considering this native fruit is relatively new to me as well.

pawpaw_on_treePawpaw, Latin name asimina triloba, is the largest indigenous fruit in North America. The pear-sized fruit resembles a light green mango in appearance though some fruit bulge at each end looking more like a green Mr. Peanut. The flesh of the fruit it light yellow and has smooth custard like consistency. Each fruit contains 6 to12 black seeds. Pawpaw’s flavor reminds me of banana and mango with hints of vanilla. Some local names given to this native food are Ozark banana, Indiana banana, wild banana, Kentucky banana, banango… Are you noticing a pattern?

pawpaw_comparison
2 varieties of pawpaw

There are multiple varieties of wild growing pawpaw. Their fruits vary in size, color, skin thickness, flavor and number of seeds. Here at the camp we are fortunate enough to have a very juicy and tasty variety of pawpaw. The closest relative of the pawpaw grows in the tropics. Pawpaw is related to soursop, sweetsop cherimoya and other Annonaceae family trees… all of which I love to eat. Unfortunately these guys only grow far, far away.

Soursop in Jamaica
Soursop in Jamaica

Both the pawpaw tree and fruit have complex chemical properties that have both health and agricultural applications. Compounds known as acetogenins in the leaves, twigs and bark of the pawpaws are a natural insecticide and show anti-cancer properties. Pawpaw fruit is higher in protein than most fruits and is also rich in fatty acids. Caprylic acid (octanoic acid) in pawpaw fruits is a compound shown effective against bacteria infection and is also used in supplements taken to suppress candida.

Enjoy this pawpaw hunting video from October of this year and stay tuned for my next post where I’ll show you how to make a pawpaw pie.