Appalachia Appalachian Food Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

Pawpaws

Growing Pawpaws
All of you who guessed it was a Pawpaw were right. A gentleman who lives in the western part of our county sent 2 pawpaws home with Paul for Granny and Pap. Lucky for me they ate one and saved the other for me.

I remember singing the Pawpaw song way back in Elementary school-maybe you sung it too? It went something like this:

Where, oh where is dear little Tipper?
Where, oh where is dear little Tipper?
Where, oh where is dear little Tipper?
Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch.

Come on girls, let’s go find her,
Come on boys, let’s go find her,
Come on everybody, let’s go find her,
Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch.

Pickin up pawpaws, put em in your pockets,
Pickin up pawpaws, put em in your pockets,
Pickin up pawpaws, put em in your pockets,
Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch.

When my teacher had the class sing the song and act out the parts I knew we were pretending to pick up some kind of fruit. For whatever reason I had it in my mind that pawpaws grew way down south in Mississippi or Louisiana. It was only a few years ago that I learned they grow in many parts of Appalachia-including my own.

Pawpaws in appalachia
After Granny and Pap shared with their pawpaw with me I started reading up on them. More than one source said they were cultivated by the Cherokee Indians. A few things other things I discovered:

Pawpaw seeds

The seeds inside pawpaws are huge! A little larger than a kidney bean. I’ve read varying accounts on the success of starting pawpaw trees from seeds, but since I have them I’m going to give it a try.

What does pawpaws taste like

So what do pawpaws taste like? The answer varies with the person asked. Pap and Granny said between a pineapple and a banana; Paul said like an apple; The Deer Hunter said like a grape; and I say the taste is similar to a mango.

Tipper

 

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27 Comments

  • Reply
    Margaret Roberts
    September 22, 2018 at 11:05 am

    They grow wild on our property and this year we have had an abundant crop. They are delicious, but you don’t get much fruit after picking all the seeds out!

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    January 5, 2012 at 9:26 am

    I remember going to get paw paws when I was a kid. If I remember correctly there was a bunch of the trees back from my aunt’s house. We still get them, my son knows where there are trees. They are a very unique fruit. I noticed you peeled them, we always just cut the tops off and squished them out of their protective peel and ate them that way.

  • Reply
    Barry
    October 16, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    I grew up eating paw paws every fall. I ate my weight in them during the short time they got ripe. I still live on the old family farm in eastern KY and we still have a few scrub paw paw trees but they don’t bare anymore. I dont know what happened to them but I sure wish they’d come back again. There was one across from mom and dad’s that was huge and the shape of a Christmas tree and that’s what we called it. It died as did most of the good bearers.

  • Reply
    W.V.A girl
    September 30, 2011 at 11:11 am

    When I was a child in West Virginia paw paw trees were everywhere along the creek.My cousins and I called them umbrella trees.You could stand under them in a rain storm and not get wet.They grew so thick in the holler, we would take the large leaves off to make skirts for dress up.Those were great times.We also painted our nails with poke berry juice but that can be another story for another day.We did eat the paw paws when they were ripe and liked them.

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee
    September 11, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    We said “baskets” too. Sometimes to this day when we park waaaaaaaaaaaay out in the parking lot of a mall, etc., we’ll say “we parked in the papwpaw patch.” lol

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    September 11, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    I’ve never seen one — though we live near a branch called pawpaw. I’m going to have to try to get a tree to plant — I love mangoes and if that’s what pawpaws taste like…

  • Reply
    Tom
    September 11, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    A few years ago we brought some pawpaws back from our trip to NC. We all love them and have had much luck growing them with the seeds we planted. Hope you have the same luck with yours!

  • Reply
    NCMountainwoman
    September 11, 2011 at 11:43 am

    We used to have paw paw trees nearby. The main thing I remember about them is that if you eat too many, your GI tract slows down immensely. Supposedly that is good for the paw paw, since animals that eat the seeds may travel a far piece before eliminating them for new trees. We really loved them when we were kids but I haven’t had one in years.

  • Reply
    sandra
    September 11, 2011 at 6:16 am

    when i saw the word Pawpaw on the fruit I started humming the song. but we always said puttin in the basket, not pockets. and the wierd thing is, i thought a pawpaw was something small and hard for no reason. it looks like a mango, which i truly love. i will not show this to hubby or i might have to order a seed. we have no room to grow them but would if we could.

  • Reply
    Bill Dotson
    September 10, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Tipper Pawpaws grow well here in southern Ohio I don’t how far north they are though. One thing about them is you have to beat the deer and other varmits to them, they get the most of them. In the 60’s Dad loved them but we had to rush him to the emergency room one night, the Dr. said the pawpaw he had ate that evening poisoned him, he had ate all his life. Bill

  • Reply
    Carol Isler
    September 10, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    I wonder if those seeds have to run through the digestive system of a coon or possum or deer before they will germinate.
    Excellent post, Tipper.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    September 10, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Very interesting. Would be good if someone finds where you might get seeds or plants. Would love to have one.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 10, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Tipper, I have to say this has been a very educational post. I do love to learn new things. Somehow I’m going to have to locate a pawpaw to try.
    I remember the pawpaw patch song but personally was never very taken by it.
    I also must admit that I never once wondered what a pawpaw was. I just thought it was a made up word…..live and learn.

  • Reply
    Ken
    September 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Tipper,
    Very nice blog on the Paw Paws. I
    hope your seeds become fruitful
    trees someday. The two I had were
    about 3 years old when they got
    mowed down, along with several
    cherry trees. If I ever replant
    them, it’ll be in a hard to get to
    place…Ken

  • Reply
    Becky
    September 10, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Oh yeah, I do hope you have good luck growing them!

  • Reply
    Becky
    September 10, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    I have seen them but never tasted them. I was told they are similar to a banana. I would love to try them.
    There are two things I would love to grow here on the farm and one of them is pawpaws.

  • Reply
    B f
    September 10, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    oh my, after all these years i actually see a paw paw , we use to gather them and ate them ,now i dont believe i could eat one now . they are kinda like a banana, theres a distinctive smell that i didnt like , but they beat nothing and we didnt have snacks very often so you know when you are hungry and walking thru the woods from school before supper “they aint half bad”

  • Reply
    Bob Aufdemberge
    September 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Here’s a different verse from the Pawpaw song that I heard as a kid:
    I saw a possum
    In the pawpaw patch
    Pickin’ up pawpaws
    And puttin’ ’em in his poccket.
    The last syllable of “pocket” went up in a high falsetto.
    Of course a possum with a pocket should have been a her instead of a him, but oh well…

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 10, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Tipper–Glad you finally got to sample and savor a pawpaw, never mind that for a mountain girl the experiecne should have come way before now.
    You asked for more information if we happened to know it, so here goes.
    1. Pawpaw custard was George Washington’s favorite dessert.
    2. The leaves are the sole host for the zebra swallowtail butterfly in the larval (cocoon) state.
    3. The plant spreads mainly by its roots and seems to love wet feet, although that’s by no means the only place it will grow. In the mountains of N. C., it seems they are almost always around a seep spring or wet bottom.
    4. Although not particularly noticeable from a distance, the flowers are beautiful in early spring. The plant flowers prior to showing any leaves. If I can locate it, I’ll send you a photo of a bloom.
    5.It is an understory plant which does perfectly well with larger trees forming an overhead canopy.
    6. It is fairly common to find morel mushrooms growing in the same general area as pawpaws.
    Enjoyed this one a lot, maybe because I’m mighty partial to nature’s delightful and diverse bounty.
    Jim Casada
    http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

  • Reply
    glynda
    September 10, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Wow, this is interesting. I remember singing this song as a child too except we sang ” picking up pawpaw’s putting them in a basket ” instead of pocket but I’m glad you have given us so much information about the pawpaw since I too thought they were only in the deeper south and I always associated them with the ” cotton fields ” somehow. Guess because we also sang the song about ” them old cotton fields back home ” and I just kinda remember the two together. Thanks Tipper, great story.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 10, 2011 at 11:18 am

    PawPaws are native to Florida too. My daughter and I went on a hike last Saturday and found loads of them. I’ve never eaten one (that I know of), but I am told they are a relative of the Papaya.

  • Reply
    Carol Wong
    September 10, 2011 at 11:13 am

    We had a paw paw tree in the backyard, it bore one paw paw! I ate it! Granny is right, it tasted like a banana-pineapple combination. It may be my favorite fruit and this is after eating eating just one.
    Carol Wong

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    September 10, 2011 at 10:59 am

    I thought that’s what it was. I hadn’t seen one since I was little living in Kentucky.

  • Reply
    Sue Nugent
    September 10, 2011 at 10:51 am

    My Mom always sang that song to us as kids, too, with a slight variation.She was from south Louisiana.Her version was “puttin’em in a basket”,but I remember it well.We never saw a pawpaw that I can remember growing up, but now that I am older, my husband has pointed out the tree to me. We have a few trees in the adjoining woods around us, but I have never been lucky enough to see them bear fruit.I would like to try growing a tree on my property just for novelty. I may look into that.

  • Reply
    ilvalleygal
    September 10, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Hello from Paw Paw, IL where there are a few trees yet. They are supposed to be hard to grow. I’ve been told there used to be huge groves of 2paws but they’re mostly gone now.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 10, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Tipper,
    I would love to have a Paw-paw tree…I have a good place down by the Spring bank in the shade..
    I am researching places where I can order a couple of them..
    Yours certainly looks like it would be a tasty one..it is bigger than I remember…
    Paw-paws were put in a pocket in the song/rhyme I was taught too, some versions say basket…Mom said, they never seemed to have a basket when coming upon a paw-paw with ripe fruit so apron pockets did the trick! ha
    Great post enjoyed it…Hope your Paw-paw seeds sprout…My Grandkids would love to have a Maw-maw tree as well…LOL
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    Marj
    September 10, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Wow! I have heard of pawpaws and was born in Ohio, but have never saw one. They look to me from your picture like a mango. Thanks for sharing, I found this post very interesting.

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