Pawpaws: The Forgotten Fruit That Could Use a Little Love

Pawpaws are America's lost fruit. The potato-shaped tree-grown fruits are native to 26 of the United States, and can be found as far north to the Canadian border and as far west as Nebraska. They aren’t, however, easy to find — unless you know where to forage. Pawpaws continue to defy attempts to commercialize their production. Ripe pawpaws have an incredibly short shelf-life — about three days — and like garden tomatoes, they're best picked when ripe. That means they don't survive shipping. In addition, pawpaws are easily bruised, and while the fruit inside is usually still okay to eat, the damaged outside skin turns black-and-blue, discouraging most shoppers from buying them. So, how do you get ahold of this tasty fruit? Most likely, you’ll need to find a local grower or a farmer’s market that carries it during the natural harvest season, which runs late summer to early fall. Most fans of the fruit recommend eating it raw by scooping it out with a spoon. Steer clear of the inedible, large dark brown seeds and the skin, which contains a nerve toxin. The pawpaw's interior has notes of banana, kiwi and mango, and the custardy texture offers a sumptuous finish. If you have excess fruit, there are recipes pies, custards, cakes and cookies.