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Pawpaw Harvest: Timing Tips for Your Mid-Atlantic Garden

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Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) – deliciously tropical fruits native to the Mid-Atlantic region. While growing pawpaws can be a rewarding endeavor, knowing exactly when to harvest these custardy delights is key to enjoying their full flavor potential.

Fruit Appearance: One of the easiest ways to determine if your pawpaws are ready for harvest is by assessing their appearance. Ripe pawpaws typically turn from bright green to a slightly yellowish hue, with the surface yielding slightly to gentle pressure. However, be cautious not to wait too long, as overripe pawpaws can become mushy and less flavorful. If they are yellow and hard, they can be set on a windowsill for a few days untill ripe.

  1. Fruit Drop: In nature, pawpaws have a tendency to drop from the tree when they’re fully ripe. Keep an eye on the ground beneath your pawpaw tree – if you notice fruits beginning to fall, it’s a good indicator that the remaining fruits are nearing maturity. However, don’t rely solely on fruit drop as a harvesting cue, as critters or windy weather may cause premature drops. We’ve also found that fruits ripen in succession for a month or more.
  2. Aroma: Much like other fruits, ripe pawpaws emit a sweet and tropical fragrance that’s hard to miss. Take a whiff of the fruit – if it smells pleasantly sweet with hints of banana and mango, it’s likely ready to be harvested. If you detect any off-putting odors or sour notes, the fruit may not be fully ripe yet.
  3. Texture: When gently pressed, ripe pawpaws should yield slightly to pressure, similar to a ripe avocado. Avoid harvesting fruits that feel rock-hard or overly soft, as they may not have reached their peak ripeness. Instead, aim for fruits with a slight give when gently squeezed. If they are yellow and slightly hard, they can be set on a windowsill for a few days until ripe.
  4. Taste Test: Of course, the most foolproof way to determine if a pawpaw is ready for harvest is by sampling its creamy flesh! Once you’ve identified a pawpaw that meets the criteria above, carefully cut it open and take a small bite. If the fruits are not yet sweet and flavorful, set them on a windowsill for a couple days. If the flesh is creamy, sweet, and reminiscent of banana and vanilla, congratulations – you’ve successfully harvested a ripe pawpaw!
  5. Culinary Uses: Let’s explore the culinary potential of pawpaws and discover creative ways to incorporate them into your favorite dishes!
    • Pawpaw Smoothie Sensation: Start your day on a refreshing note with a pawpaw smoothie that’s bursting with tropical flavor. Pawpaws are a great substitute for bananas in your smoothie. Simply blend ripe pawpaw flesh with your choice of yogurt, milk, or non-dairy milk, along with a handful of fresh or frozen fruits like berries, or pineapple. Some people add a splash of honey or maple syrup for sweetness, though I find ripe pawpaws to be plenty sweet. and voila – you’ve got yourself a creamy, dreamy concoction that’s perfect for breakfast or a midday pick-me-up.
    • Pawpaw Paradise Ice Cream: Beat the heat with a homemade batch of pawpaw ice cream that’s sure to delight your taste buds. Combine pureed pawpaw flesh with heavy cream, sugar, and a splash of vanilla extract, then churn it in your ice cream maker until thick and creamy. The result? A luscious frozen treat with a tropical twist that’s perfect for indulging on a hot summer day.
    • Pawpaw Power Pancakes: Take your weekend brunch to the next level with fluffy pawpaw pancakes that are as nutritious as they are delicious. Simply fold chopped pawpaw pieces into your favorite pancake batter and cook until golden brown. Top with a drizzle of maple syrup and a sprinkle of toasted nuts for added crunch. These pancakes are guaranteed to be a hit with kids and adults alike!
    • Pawpaw Salsa Surprise: Add a touch of exotic flair to your next taco night with a vibrant pawpaw salsa that’s bursting with flavor. Dice ripe pawpaw flesh and combine it with red onion, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, lime juice, and a pinch of salt. Serve alongside grilled fish or chicken tacos for a refreshing and unexpected twist that will have your taste buds dancing.
    • Pawpaw Pie Perfection: And last but certainly not least, indulge your sweet tooth with a classic pawpaw pie that’s sure to steal the show. Mix pawpaw pulp with eggs, sugar, milk, and a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, then pour it into a flaky pie crust and bake until set. The result? A decadent dessert that’s reminiscent of banana cream pie, but with a uniquely Mid-Atlantic twist.
    • Freeze Pawpaws: The shelf life of Pawpaws is very short.  If you find you are unable to eat your pawpaws or salsa in a day or two, simply freeze pulp with a squeeze of lemon or lime in large ice cube trays and transfer to ziplock freezer bags for quick and easy access! 

Remember, the timing of pawpaw harvest can vary depending on factors such as weather conditions, tree age, and cultivar. It’s always a good idea to monitor your pawpaw trees closely and harvest fruits incrementally as they reach peak ripeness.

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