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Paw Paw Update

Three years ago in this post to this thread, I discussed the two paw paw seedlings I'd planted in my front yard in 2013. Here was a picture of them in 2016:

KMWLQRn.png

And here is a picture of them today from about the same angle:

20190802_193517.jpg

They are both about 12ft tall now. Notice how the one labelled "Second PawPaw Tree" is up to the height of the second story window. But the exciting thing is not that they've grown a lot - but that they are finally bearing fruit!

I walked past the one by the house today and it is laden with immature paw paws. Here is a picture of one bunch with my hand for scale:

20190802_192217.jpg

I counted about 45 fruits in all on that one tree. Weirdly, the other doesn't seem to have any. Here is a picture of four bunches, each with 4-6 fruit, growing 1/2 way up the tree:

20190802_192238.jpg

I'm very psyched. For those of you who aren't familiar with paw paw trees, their fruit is the largest tree fruit native to North America. All the other common tree fruit (apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, citrus fruit) are not native. Paw paws are custary in texture (similar to durian), but taste like a cross between a banana, mango and pineapple. Paw paws aren't sold in supermarkets because once ripe they are very soft (like a very overripe mango or persimmon) and have a very short shelf life. Plus they only ripen on the tree, so unlike mangos, you can't pick them while they are hard and therefore easy to transport without damage, and then wait for them to ripen on the shelf or at home.

You can buy them online (e.g. here), but they are very expensive (~$15/lb plus shipping) and only available for about a 3 weeks a year in the fall. Last year they didn't even sell them because their trees didn't produce any fruit.

I figure my tree is on track to produce at least 10 lbs once all the fruit has matured. Sweet!

--Dean

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Great photos Dean!  I have never tried it.  These days my diet has been lower net-carbohydrate, but I will be looking for them in our co-op and plan on making ( what sounds like) a delicious exception.

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That is awesome Dean. Did both trees have flowers?  That is surprising that only one would have fruit since they likely had to cross polinate.  I have been saying for years now that I want to plant paw paw trees, but for some reason I have never done it.  This is the year for me, I will be planting them!  My thoughts:

1) They are like durian in more ways than one.  It seems that just like with durian, some people can't stand paw paws, while others love them.  I haven't researched this - but I'm guessing there is some particular chemical compound that is in both that accounts for that.  Personally I love paw paws (and durian).

2) The ripe fruit freezes well, so you can preserve it quite nicely (in fact I wonder if in the future there might be a market for frozen chopped paw paw just like the other frozen fruits you can buy in supermarkets).  Currently I have two chest freezers, which I usually stock with blueberries and other things, but if I had paw paw trees, I'd probably dedicate a lot of space to those.

3) This might be the most important thing - the paw paw seems to have ledgendary respect for its anti-cancer properties among enthusiats.  This is also not something I have researched (yet) but I'm interested in.  I just did a quick bing search and lots of interesting facts and anecdotes come up.  Even the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has info on it:

Quote

Pawpaw is toxic to some cancer cells, but such effects have not been shown in humans.

Asimina triloba, commonly known as pawpaw, is native to North America and has edible bean-shaped fruits. The plant extract is used in anti-lice shampoo and in pesticides.

The major components of pawpaw are compounds known as acetogenins. They prevent the cell from making ATP, an important energy source. In lab studies, the extract killed cancer cells resistant to commonly used chemotherapy drugs such as adriamycin. It also appeared to be more toxic to cancer cells than to normal cells. However, studies on these effects have not been conducted in humans.

As far as anecdotes go - I am a member of this "Backyard Fruit Growers" group, and there is a guy who attributes the paw paw to helping his wife beat cancer.

4) There may be some separate benefits to eating the green/unripe paw paw but again this is not something I've researched.  I noticed people discussing this online in a cancer forum here.

5) Paw Paw trees will grow where other trees won't grow and they aren't as susceptible to common diseases like other fruit trees.  They don't mind low lying, slow to drain, wet areas.  In the wild they often grow alongside of rivers, they can tolerate a lot of shade.  But they also grow in full sun (even better) and normal soil areas too.  Since I have some low spots on my property where other fruit trees keep dying (root rot) I think the paw paws will love those spots.  They also have a tap root.  Growing them from seeds is tricky, you have to keep the seeds in a refridgerator for 3-4 months (over winter) and constantly keep them moist (wet paper towel) unless you just plant the seeds in the ground and forget about them - eventually they will come up (sometimes it takes 2 years).  You can incubate the seeds after this cold period, or if your room temps are warm (70's/80's) let them stay moist (still wet paper towels) and warm, eventually the root pops out one end of the seeds, then it wants to go straight down and super long pots are ideal, eventually the root comes completely out of the seed pod, then the top part grows upward and starts producing leaves.  I got a few seeds in the spring that I've been messing around with for fun, some have germinated, but I want to plant a lot more than I currently have.  I live near a river and was thinking about planting a grove of trees over there just to see what happens (after I run out of room on my own property).

 

Edited by Gordo

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46 minutes ago, Gordo said:

2) The ripe fruit freezes well, so you can preserve it quite nicely (in fact I wonder if in the future there might be a market for frozen chopped paw paw just like the other frozen fruits you can buy in supermarkets).  Currently I have two chest freezers, which I usually stock with blueberries and other things, but if I had paw paw trees, I'd probably dedicate a lot of space to those.

3) This might be the most important thing - the paw paw seems to have ledgendary respect for its anti-cancer properties among enthusiats.  This is also not something I have researched (yet) but I'm interested in.  I just did a quick bing search and lots of interesting facts and anecdotes come up.  Even the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has info on it:

As far as anecdotes go - I am a member of this "Backyard Fruit Growers" group, and there is a guy who attributes the paw paw to helping his wife beat cancer.

4) There may be some separate benefits to eating the green/unripe paw paw but again this is not something I've researched.  I noticed people discussing this online in a cancer forum here.

 

Pretty trees.

I was curious enough to almost order it frozen online ( https://integrationacres.com/products/frozen-pawpaw-pulp-pawpaw-pleasures-p-44.html ) but they ship USPS only and the charges are just silly compared to my level of curiosity 🙂

The SKCC link (thanks, Gordo) casts doubt on their anti-cancer effectiveness (to keep it in perspective, bleach kills cancer cells in test tubes, too).

But the side effects are rather notable:

"DISCUSSION:

"Pawpaw fruit contains a high concentration of annonacin, which is toxic to cortical neurons. Crude fruit extract also induced neurotoxicity, highlighting the need for additional studies to determine the potential risks of neurodegeneration associated with chronic exposure to pawpaw products."

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22130466



I guess I'll look for it and try it, if I ever see it somewhere.

Edited by Ron Put

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Interesting, I had not heard of any pawpaw related neurotoxicity before. I better look into that before planting too many 😉

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Gordo,

5 hours ago, Gordo said:

Did both trees have flowers?  That is surprising that only one would have fruit since they likely had to cross polinate.  

As I recall both trees had relatively few flowers this year compared with last year. In past years I've tried to deliberately cross pollinate between the two trees using a q-tip to no avail. I didn't bother this year and wouldn't-you-know, one of the trees finally fruits. Go figure...

Regarding potential neurotoxicity - as Tom likes to say, the dose makes the poison. Given how hard paw paws are to grow, how short their season is, and how expensive they are to buy if you are lucky enough to find them, I'm not worried about overdosing.

I look forward to hearing about your paw paw growing adventure!

--Dean

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1 hour ago, Gordo said:

The other great thing about paw paw trees is that deer HATE them, they pretty much won't even accidentally eat the leaves branches or fruit:

https://www.nps.gov/articles/pawpaw.htm

 

LOL, I wouldn't call what seems to be effectively an invasive species "great" exactly.

Deer also hate poisonous mushrooms.... 🙂

Edited by Ron Put

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Hi Dean!

Interestingly, there is fruit also called the paw paw that grows in the tropical areas of South Africa, such as in the province of Natal.  When my wife and I visited South Africa (over 20 years ago), we ate some of them.  They are much larger than the American paw paw, are large and round, and are a close relative of the papaya, but much larger. 

My wife just looked it up; the American paw paw is not related to the papaya (and therefore is not related to the South African paw paw).  I remember that SA paw paws taste much the same as papayas, although usually not as sweet, and not at all like bananas or mangos.  

  --  Saul

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Pawpaw Update

I'm happy to report my pawpaws have ripened well and they are delicious! Here is a photo of 18 pawpaws, which is about half of my harvest from the single tree that fruited this year (pictured in the top post on this page):

20191001_145845.jpg

You can see the two rows of black seeds running down the middle of the flesh. I'm saving all the seeds. I plan to sprout them over the winter do some "guerrilla planting" in the spring in the woods and open fields near my house.

Below is a picture of me holding one for a sense of scale. They are each about 250g (~1/2 pound):

20191001_154118.jpg

At the bottom of the fruit near my palm you can see the divot in the flesh where the fruit was attached to the tree. I'm letting them ripen completely on the tree until they fall off under their own weight. A few of the fruit (5) are still on the tree, as you can see in the photo below. I'm using black crates suspended in the branches under the fruit clusters to catch the fruit when they fall to avoid bruising and prevent animals from taking them!

20191001_153512.jpg

I've eaten a few of the fruit that have already ripened, frozen the pulp from a few and shared a bunch with friends and family. It is about 5-to-1 people who like them vs. people who don't. In fact, my wife was about the only person who really didn't care for them due to both their taste and texture. But she doesn't like either bananas or mangos. She clearly has bad taste :-). 

They have the smooth custardy texture of durian, for anyone lucky enough to have tried that exotic fruit. As for taste, I'd describe it as a blend of banana and mango or better yet, banana and jackfruit. I really enjoy it. I plan to make vegan pawpaw "ice cream" soon using a combination of frozen pawpaw pulp and frozen bananas. I can't wait!

--Dean

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My plant based paw paw omelette.  3 trees officially planted 😉 and looking good, 11 small seedlings growing in pots, and dozens of seeds in the fridge for next year...

5A191064-1C23-41B8-86CD-F6E1AED1DEC9.jpeg

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I’ve been inspired by this guy’s “food forest” (he is in the same climate as me too):

 

 

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