Pawpaws

Pawpaws

Pawpaws are native to the eastern US and in my opinion almost completely unknown. I guess this is due the fact that the pawpaw “does not store or ship well” [1]. I have lived in Maryland all my life and I am fortunate enough to have great memories of picking and eating pawpaws along the C&O canal.

Their texture is close to a banana or maybe a papaya. Their taste is unique and for me I can only say they taste like a pawpaw. They look like a mango and usually have black spots that make them look like they’re covered in mold.

Searching for recipes on the internet is a disappointment due to their relative obscurity. But wikipedia says, “In many recipes calling for bananas, pawpaw can be used with volumetric equivalency”. It’s a fairly labor intensive process to get the maximum amount of pulp from a pawpaw. The biggest issue with getting the pulp is the seeds.

pawpaw seeds pawpaw with seeds

The seeds have a thick membrane around them that clings to the pulp so if you want to get the most out of your pawpaw you are going to have to get that membrane off of the seeds. I peeled mine by hand the skin is really thin and if the pawpaw is ripe it comes off easily. I guess most of my pawpaws were technically unripe because they were fairly green but they tasted ripe so I just used them anyway.

Normally you can walk around a grove of pawpaw trees and find ripe ones hanging from a tree. We cheated a little bit. When my mother would spot a tree with some in it I would give it a shake and wait for a hail of pawpaws to fall to the ground. Hind sight being what it is I probably should have had some head gear because these things are heavy and some of the really unripe ones are hard as a rock. But I was lucky and didn’t get a pawpaw to the skull.

pawpaw hanging from a tree pawpaw leaves

Pawpaw Jam

Pawpaw Jam

Ingredients

4 c. pawpaws seeded and peeled
4 c. sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 packet pectin (I used sure-jell)

Preparation

Sterilize the jars by boiling in hot water or washing in the dish washer hot cycle.
Put the lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water.
Bring the pawpaws and lemon juice to a rolling boil.
Slowly mix in the pectin.
Mix in the sugar.
Bring to a rolling boil and boil for one minute.
Fill the jars with some room for the liquid to expand, about 1/8 of an inch from the opening.
Put the lids on and secure with the screw top rings.
Add the jars to boiling water in your canning pot for 10-20 minutes. (I used a big pot with a steamer basket in the bottom to keep the cans off the bottom).
Remove them from the water and let them cool at room temperature for 24 hours.

*Disclaimer: I made this recipe up. I can’t attest to the “safety” of this recipe because canning with untested recipes could possibly lead to spoilage. So if you are a little freaked out, you can always freeze or store in the fridge for a couple of months with relative safety.

Thoughts on the jam: It really didn’t hold that unique pawpaw flavor well. It tasted good, but it really just tasted like “jam”. I have a few pawpaws left over that still need to ripen a bit so I’m hoping that I can get enough out of them to mix some jam and fresh pawpaws to whip up some pawpaw ice cream.

11 Responses

  1. Yeah completely unknown across the pond here, that sounds pretty interesting a papaya-banana taste… that jam sounds pretty cool….. and hang on.. did you say ice cream :D

    my favorite words

  2. I wish I could imagine what these taste like…are they sweet? Sour? Are they juicy? I’m so curious to try one now…Thanks!!

  3. I’m an east-coast creature and I’ve never in my life seen a pawpaw! Your jam looks wonderful! And I love the idea of pawpaw ice cream! Do you think I can find them as far north as Boston?

    +Jessie
    a.k.a. The Hungry Mouse

  4. Pawpaws are really sweet with a slight tang. Again, it’s really hard to describe.

    @Kang I didn’t mean that the flavor is like a banana or a papaya, I meant the texture is similar.

    If you are interested in trying pawpaws or even growing your own plants it looks like these guys have quite a few pawpaw products including frozen pawpaw pulp!

    http://www.integrationacres.com/products.html

  5. @Jessie they are really hard to find in Maryland and I have no idea about boston even though it’s probably in the range of where they can grow. I think Ohio is the pawpaw capital, at least they have a pawpaw festival.

  6. I grew up in Indiana and pawpaws are all over there. They are good – often compared to a banana, but I think they are definatly their own fruit. I’d like to grow a tree here in New Hampshire.

  7. I grew up in Kentucky, where they grow wild.
    I guess I’d describe the taste as a banana creme cake batter with the consistency of a dry smushed banana. Very perculiar!

  8. Every time I read pawpaw I can’t help but sing the theme song from Paw Paw Bears…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjkkMtMJxc4

  9. They usually grow near creeks and rivers. Even if you learn to identify the trees there’s no guarantee that the trees will have fruit. In a clump of four or five trees only one or two may have fruit in the early to mid fall. Paddling along the Potomac or the canal you can often smell them before you see them. They taste and smell like a combination of over ripe banana and custard. Imagine banana pudding that has the texture of pumpkin flesh. With almond size seeds. I like ‘em, but they take a little getting used to. The persimmons are dropping now, and if they’re ripe, they are as their scientific name diospyros says, food of the gods. Under ripe ones will pucker your mouth in an unforgettably unpleasant way. Unripe pawpaws are merely flavorless and starchy. They are generally ripe when they look like a too far gone banana- blackish green, spotted and soft. Free food in the forest, folks!

  10. James, Thanks for the Pawpaw jam recipe. I used it last fall to rave reviews and just dug it out for a fresh batch this year. Last year’s jam managed to maintain a nice pawpaw flavor, which I think may have been helped by using very ripe pawpaws.
    Thanks again!
    -Clint

  11. Thanks Clinton, I’m glad it worked out for you. Thanks for reminding me that it’s pawpaw season as well, I would have totally forgot!