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Mission: Nutrition

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Collage Pawpaw

Meet the Largest Fruit in North America: Pawpaw

Posted by Lisa Peterson -

Living in South Central Illinois, native tropical fruit is not typically a hot commodity. Recently a co-worker brought in an odd potato shaped green fruit. She had received the fruit from a local farmer, who had told her it was a pawpaw. Pawpaw is the largest edible fruit in North America and can be found in 26 states reaching from the Gulf Coast up the Great Lakes and as far West as Nebraska. Ohio even has an annual three-day festival dedicated to this unique fruit!

Where Can I Purchase a Pawpaw and What is the Shelf Life?

Pawpaw is not usually found in grocery stores due to the cost of processing, but can be found at local farmers markets. This unique fruit bruises easily and becomes overripe within two to four days at room temperature, once picked. Fully ripe pawpaw can be kept for up to a week in the refrigerator. Another idea is pureeing the fruit and freezing pawpaw to increase shelf life. There are over 80 different varieties of pawpaw, each with a distinctive flavor, nutrient composition, and amount of large seeds in each fruit. The best time of year to purchase pawpaw is in late summer and early fall, usually between August and mid-October.

Is it Nutritious?

Pawpaw have a similar amount of dietary fiber compared to other fruit. Pawpaw contains three times the amount of vitamin C as an apple, twice as much as a banana, and about one third as much vitamin C as an orange. Similar to bananas, pawpaw is also high in potassium, but has ten times more calcium than an apple or banana. Pawpaw is also contains more riboflavin and niacin than an apple, banana, or an orange. This unique fruit also contains high amounts of the minerals phosphorous, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and manganese. The protein content of a pawpaw is similar or exceeds that of a banana or an orange. Pawpaws contain all essential amino acids. Comparing a banana to a pawpaw, a pawpaw contains a lower amount of saturated fat and a higher amount of monounsaturated fat. A great heart healthy snack! Be aware there have been cases of allergic reactions to pawpaws, resulting in skin rashes, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

What Does it Taste Like?

The flavor of a pawpaw is a cross between a banana, pineapple, and a mango. The fruit has a creamy custard texture similar to an avocado or a mashed banana. When eating a pawpaw, always wash the fruit first, and peel the skin off as it can give off a bitter taste. Keep in mind; biting straight into the fruit might not be the best idea as the fruit has large dark seeds throughout. Pawpaws are a great substitute for recipes that require bananas. Instead of adding a banana to a smoothie substitute pureed pawpaw for a tropical twist! Below is a recipe from Kentucky State University, developed by Joyce Faber from Urbana, IL. Looking for additional recipes? Visit the Kentucky State University Extension link for recipes on custards, pies, breads, puddings, ice cream and additional desserts.

Pawpaw Cookies

½ c. raisins

½ c. margarine

½ c. diced dates (or cranberries)

1 c. oatmeal

1 c. water

1 c. self-rising flour

2 eggs

1 tsp. baking soda

½ c. pawpaw pulp

½ c. walnut pieces

Mix together raisins, dates, and water. Boil 3 minutes. Add margarine. Blend oatmeal, flour, eggs, baking soda, and nuts. Add cooled cooked mixture and pawpaws. Mix and refrigerate overnight. Spoon dough onto greased cooked sheet and bake at 350 F. for 10 minutes. Store cooled cookies in refrigerator.

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Hummer, Kim E. "NCG-Corvallis-Asimina Gerplasm" United States Department of Agriculture, 28 Dec. 2014. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.

Jones, Snake C., and Desmond R. Lane. "Pawpaw Description and Nutritional Information."Cooking with Pawpaws. Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension, 19 Jan. 2009. Web. 14 Sept. 2015. <>.

"Ohio Pawpaw Festival."Ohio Pawpaw Festival. Web. 14 Sept. 2015. <>.

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