Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a unique and rare small tree that is native to the Carolinian Zone and will grow best in milder regions of Southern Ontario (Zone 5 to 7). It may tolerate cooler climates if well protected, especially from strong winds. Choose a spot with more sun than shade.
Each tree is either male or female so you need at least one of each to produce fruit. You cannot tell which is which until flowers appear in a couple of years so it is a good idea to purchase a few just to be sure.
Pawpaw is known for its edible fruit (4 – 16 cm long) that tastes something like a cross between a mango and a papaya. Paul DeCampo who has been growing Pawpaws in his Toronto garden for many years says that “People just lose their stuff!” when they taste it. DeCampo describes the flavour as a mix of mango, banana, coconut, all with the texture of creme brulee thus it’s nick name “Custard Fruit”.
To eat Pawpaw, you simply wash and slice them open. Eat them with a spoon. They can also be used to make jam, cheese cake, ice cream, sorbet or daiquiri-like cocktails.
Pawpaws were used by the indigenous populations in Ontario. With the arrival of European settlers and a decline in indigenous populations, Pawpaws largely disappeared, however there is a resurgance in Ontario as more and more people are giving Pawpaws a try. I have decided to be one of those people.
One of my Pawpaw trees recently planted on the south side of the hedge in lots of sun. I included the ring of chicken wire to fend off bunnies. I ordered three trees, but was only able to get two. Next year I will get a couple more. Apparently, they begin to develop groves as they mature.
Cothron, Blake, Pawpaws: The Complete Growing and Marketing Guide, New Society Publishers. 2021
Judd, Michael, For The Love of Pawpaws: A Mini Manual For Growing and Caring for Pawpaws From Seed to Table. Ecologia. 2019.
Authored by Carol Anderson