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  • Renee Kashuba

Paw paw, our native super fruit

You may not have heard of paw paw yet, although these super fruits are gaining some notice. They're native to the US and Canada and used to be more common. I'm calling them a super fruit, because they're just packed with vitamins and minerals. They've got about the same calories and carbs, and slightly more protein, than common fruits like apples and oranges. According to Kentucky State University (, however, they offer a lot more nutrition overall, including 31% of your vitamin C for the day and 6% and 6.5% of the B-vitamins riboflavin and niacin, plus 8% of your calcium for the day, 10% of your potassium, 6% of your phosphorus, 36% of your magnesium, 56% of your iron (56%!), 7% of your zinc, 22% of your copper, and a whopping 74% of your manganese. Now, I'm not sure what manganese does for you, but I know multivitamins have it and paw paws have it, too! Also, the protein in paw paws contains all the essential amino acids, which is pretty cool for a fruit.

Paw paws have a very creamy texture, like a juicy custard, and taste like a cross between mangos and bananas. They're delicious eaten raw; just scoop them right out of the skin with a spoon. Now, folks will tell you that the seeds are easily removed. This is somewhat true, but not if you count getting the flesh off the seeds. As you can see in the first picture below, the seeds are encased in a membrane that holds some of the delicious fruit to them. This problem is solved, of course, with the "eat the fruit right out of the skin with a spoon" method. Just suck the flesh off the seeds. It's delicious, and makes the snack into a little project. If you want to actually get the fruit to use for a recipe, you can scrape through the membrane to the seed, and then pop it out of the flesh. This is a little time consuming, but worth it, because you will want every last bit of that paw paw! Discard the seeds -- by all accounts they contain a toxic substance and should not be eaten. Also, they're huge! But I think they would be great for arts and crafts, and they're easily cleaned, so that might work well.

These paw paws came to be from my mother's neighbor. They've grown a couple of paw paw trees in their yard for several years now, and the harvests have gotten overwhelming! The fruits come in the fall, but for a rather brief time. They don't last well at room temp, a bit longer in the frig, but they freeze well. The custard texture of the fruit makes them quite delicious as a frozen snack, I hear. When they come in season, these neighbors can have 50-100 ripening a day! So, they send out a neighborhood email, and set the paw paws in bins near the trees, and invite folks to come by and grab a few, or a bunch. Another neighbor makes ice cream, and folks can put in requests for that, too. It's turned in to a whole community happening.

For my first experiment cooking with paw paws, I decided to modify a recipe I use for mango "flan." It's a baked egg custard with cream and pureed fruit, covered with a fruit glaze (in this case lime). The texture with the paw paw was superb! So smooth, and yet dense with a good body. The custard also brought out the unique taste of the paw paw, yielding an even stronger impression of the fruit than you get with the plain raw fruit. I'm very happy with it.

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