Now is the time for “pickin’ up pawpaws and puttin’ ‘em in your pockets” as the children’s chant goes. The best pawpaws are the fully ripe fruits that have fallen to the ground between mid-August and mid-October, perfect for stuffing your pockets or your face!
Pawpaws are the largest edible fruit native to the U.S. and are an indigenous plant to 26 states east of Nebraska, reaching from Florida to New York. The fruit was an important food for Native Americans and early settlers. Pawpaws graced George Washington’s table in colonial days. And even animals aren’t missing out on this delicious treat — squirrels, raccoons, possums, and bears happily feast on aromatic pawpaw flesh.
Pawpaws are large fruits, similar to mangoes or papayas, ranging in color from yellow to green with skin often flecked. When over-ripe, the skin will turn brown like a banana. They have big black seeds that are easy-to-remove, a custard-like texture, and a flavor that is related to bananas, mangoes and melons. They are known commonly as a poor man’s banana.
“It has a sweet, yet rather cloying taste….a wee bit puckery” is the way their taste was described by a botanist of yore.
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