Pawpaw fruits are soft and custardy in texture with a sweet, tropical flavor with tones of banana, vanilla, and mango - an absolute delight!
Pawpaw trees of varying ages at our farm. The trees are highly ornamental with big droopy tropical-looking leaves and a pyramidical shape.
Pawpaws are North America's largest edible fruit, and probably among the tastiest as well! Native to Pennsylvania, NJ, and throughout the Mid-Atlantic and into the mid-West, they are one of the easiest fruit trees for anyone to grow. They have been growing here for probably millions of years. The Lenape, the original inhabitants of our region, called them "mahchikpi".
Pawpaws have very few pests or diseases that bother them and produce beautiful fruit without any sprays. One of the best things about them is they are also highly deer resistant - deer really don't enjoy the taste of the leaves or the skin on the fruit, because both have lots of acetogenic compounds in them that makes them very unpalatable. But the fruit itself is incredible with a distinctly tropical flavor to them that you just have to try for yourself to truly understand.
There are many myths about pawpaws and the conditions they like and don't like, but since we also grow them ourselves, we can set the record straight. Pawpaws do best in full sun and well-drained soil. They can tolerate a fairly high amount of shade, but will produce much heavier crops of fruit when grown in full sun. They can also tolerate more poorly drained soils than most other fruit trees, but they grow much slower and perform much poorer in these conditions, and waterlogged soils will almost certainly kill them. They appreciate rich organic soils and enjoy lots of compost and mulch. Each tree can produce 25-50 lbs of fruit once mature.
In the wild, pawpaws grow as an understory tree and can reach heights of 30+ ft as they search for more sunlight. In an orchard setting, heights of 15 ft are more typical, and with pruning they can be kept even shorter. Pawpaws are not self-fertile, so you need two different cultivars/seedlings to produce fruit. They also are pollinated by flies and beetles rather than bees, so they must be planted in fairly close proximity to each other to ensure they get pollinated properly. Pawpaws can be spaced as close as 8 ft apart in an orchard setting but should be planted no further than 15 ft apart to ensure good pollination. If you have very limited space in your yard, you can plant two pawpaws in the same hole and let them grow together so they look like they have two trunks. This will allow them to pollinate each other but only take up the space of one tree.
We grow our pawpaws from seed in deep tree pots that can accommodate their long taproot. The seed we use is mostly from our own improved (grafted) pawpaw cultivars, which means the seedling trees should have larger than average fruit compared to wild pawpaws. We have also begun to graft pawpaws, including Peterson™ Pawpaws (licensed from Neal Peterson himself) and should have some of those cultivars available starting in 2024.
Pawpaw Seedling - Asimina triloba
Seedling pawpaws grown here at HFF from seed we save from the fruit we eat every year from our own trees. Grown in 14" tree pots.
Mango Pawpaw - Asimina triloba
Mango produces medium to large fruits with very yellow flesh reminiscent of a mango. Taste is excellent and fruits have a firm, smooth texture. Trees have a spreading form and respond well to pruning. Mango is heritage pawpaw cultivar discovered as a wild tree in Tifton, GA by Major C. Collins in 1970.
Potomac© Pawpaw - Asimina triloba
A Peterson Pawpaws® cultivar that originated near the Potomac River, Potomac© has a sweet and rich flavor, and firm, smooth texture. Fruits are very fleshy with 4% seeds by weight and exceptionally large in size, typically 12 oz or more in weight. Trees grow very upright and produce medium-sized yields.
Shenandoah™ Pawpaw - Asimina triloba
The first of the Peterson Pawpaws® series, Shenandoah™ is prized for it's cherimoya-like flavor - sweet and mild, with a succulent custardy texture. Shenandoah™ is fleshy with only 6% seed by weight. Trees respond well to pruning. Also known as 'Wansevwan' pawpaw (U.S. plant patent #14,452).
Susquehanna© Pawpaw - Asimina triloba
One of the most popular Peterson Pawpaws®, and the personal favorite of Neal Peterson himself, Susquehanna© is known for it's exquisite flavor, very low amount of seeds (3% by weight), firm but buttery texture, with very large fruit sizes. Trees respond well to pruning and produce moderate yields. Also known as 'Levfiv' pawpaw (U.S. plant patent #15,900).
Wabash© Pawpaw - Asimina triloba
A newer Peterson Pawpaws®, release and the personal favorite of Dr. Kirk Pomper at KSU, Wabash© is named after a cannonball because of the very round shape of the fruit. Fuits have a low amount of seeds (6% by weight) with a sweet and rich flavor. The texture of fruits is medium-firm, creamy, and smooth. Fruit sizes are typically 8-12 oz and trees produce good yields.