Pawpaw

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Pawpaw (Asimina) is a genus of small clustered trees with large leaves and fruit, native to North America. The genus includes the largest edible fruit indigenous to the continent. They are understory trees found in well drained deep fertile bottom land and hilly upland habitat. Pawpaw is in the same family (Annonaceae) as the custard-apple, cherimoya, sweetsop, ylang-ylang and soursop, and it is the only member of that family not confined to the tropics.

Contents

Names

The name, also spelled paw paw, paw-paw, and papaw, probably derives from the Spanish papaya, perhaps because of the superficial similarity of their fruit. Pawpaw has numerous other common names, often very local, such as prairie banana, Indiana (Hoosier) banana, West Virginia banana, Kansas banana, Kentucky banana, Michigan banana, Missouri Banana, the poor man's banana, Ozark banana, and Banango.

Description

Pawpaws are shrubs or small trees, reaching heights of 2–12 m tall. The northern, cold-tolerant common pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is deciduous, while the southern species are often evergreen.

The leaves are alternate, obovate, entire, 20–35 cm long and 10–15 cm broad.

The fetid flowers are produced singly or in clusters of up to eight together; they are large, 4–6 cm across, perfect, with six sepals and petals (three large outer petals, three smaller inner petals). The petal color varies from white to purple or red-brown.

The fruit is a large edible berry, 5–16 cm long and 3–7 cm broad, weighing from 20–500 g, with numerous seeds; it is green when unripe, maturing to yellow or brown. It has a flavor somewhat similar to both banana and mango, varying significantly by cultivar, and has more protein than most fruits.

The shelf life of the ripe fruit is almost non-existent; it ripens to the point of fermentation soon after it is picked. Methods of preservation include dehydration, making it into jams or jellies, or pressure canning by using the numerical values for bananas. In southern West Virginia pawpaws are made into a native version of banana nut cake or fruit cake, and baked inside canning jars, the lids heat-sealed to keep the food for at least a year.

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