What is this mysterious, yellow-green (when ripe) tree fruit? It is hailed as the largest native to North America, found from northern Florida to southern Ontario and from western New York to southeastern Nebraska. Dubbed Asimina triloba by botanists, the list of common names tacked onto this temperate member of the custard apple family is truly dizzying. Its most common appellation is the “pawpaw,” also written as “paw paw,” the namesake of countless places across our country, including a town and river in Michigan. There is even an old American folk song about pawpaws!
In our state, pawpaws are also known as the “Michigan Banana.” Many people compare the taste of its rich yellow flesh (found in the good varieties) to that of a real banana—but in custard form, with hints of other tropical fruits and flavors mixed in.
The story of how my family first became enthralled with pawpaws, and our subsequent cultivation of them, is best told by my father who wrote the following article, published in the July/August 2011 issue of Grit.
Notes on Growing Pawpaws from Seed
Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) seeds need to be chilled for a time before planting. This is called “stratifying” the seeds. This can be done by placing them in a fridge for about four months in a plastic bag with slightly moist peat moss or potting soil. An alternative method would be to plant the seeds directly in the ground in the fall.
Plant the stratified seeds in the spring directly in the ground or a pot. Pawpaw seeds take a while to germinate, usually after a couple of months. Pawpaws prefer partial shade to full sun, especially when they are young.