When I was growing up in S.C., we kids played outdoors, most days. The weather didn’t matter; I was all about being outside – running, biking, swimming, climbing trees, and exploring. I’ve always enjoyed the woods and creating trails and forts.
While exploring, I loved picking/eating ‘wild’ fruit. My family always had a big garden, so I was accustomed to having melons, green beans, corn, etc. in one form or another pretty much year ‘round. But there was something kind of neat about eating fruit ‘in the woods.’ We picked blackberries, plums, black cherries, peaches, muscadines, ate the nectar from honeysuckle, and chewed on sour weeds.
A native fruit I (don’t think I’ve ever) heard about is the pawpaw. Apparently, pawpaw is the largest edible fruit native to the U.S., including the Carolinas. Making It Grow included a segment about pawpaw trees on the May 12, 2020 show. Viewing it, I was surprised I’ve never seen the pawpaw tree or fruit. Surely, I would have climbed a tree to get to that fruit!
Harvest is from mid-August into October. The fruit grows in clusters of 2-12 pawpaw. Each individual fruit grows 3-6 inches long, looks like a kidney bean, and can weigh 5-16 ounces. The inside texture is like rich, creamy custard. Simply slice the fruit in half and scoop the flesh out of the skin like it’s a cup. The taste is described as a combination of banana, mango, pineapple.
Pawpaws are a good source of potassium, vitamin C (about 1/3 as an orange), and several amino acids. The protein in pawpaw contains all essential amino acids. Pawpaw contains significant amounts of calcium, zinc, phosphorous, niacin, and riboflavin.
Pawpaw is difficult to sell in retail establishments due to short shelf life. It may be found at local farmer’s markets and roadside stands. You may get lucky and find pawpaw in wooded areas and along creek beds locally. Just keep your eyes open! If you do get your hands on pawpaw, rumor has it the ice cream is fantastic!
For more information, see HGIC 1360, PawPaw.