George Washington’s favorite native fruit is ripe in the HFH orchard >> the pawpaw. Enjoy, but beware.
Wild-collected fruits of the common pawpaw (Asimina triloba) have long been a favorite treat throughout the tree’s extensive native range in eastern North America. Fresh pawpaw fruits are commonly eaten raw; however, they do not store or ship well unless frozen. The fruit pulp is also often used locally in baked dessert recipes, with pawpaw often substituted in many banana-based recipes.
Pawpaws have never been cultivated for fruit on the scale of apples and peaches, but interest in pawpaw cultivation has increased in recent decades. However, only frozen fruit will store or ship well. Other methods of preservation include dehydration, production of jams or jellies, and pressure canning.
The pawpaw is also gaining in popularity among backyard gardeners because of the tree’s distinctive growth habit, the appeal of its fresh fruit, and its relatively low maintenance needs once established. The common pawpaw is also of interest in ecological restoration plantings since this tree grows well in wet soil and has a strong tendency to form well-rooted clonal thickets.
The several other species of Asimina have few economic uses.
The earliest documentation of pawpaws is in the 1541 report of the Spanish de Soto expedition, who found Native Americans cultivating it east of the Mississippi River. Chilled pawpaw fruit was a favorite dessert of George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson planted it at his home in Virginia, Monticello. The Lewis and Clark Expedition sometimes subsisted on pawpaws during their travels. Daniel Boone was also a consumer and fan of the pawpaw. The common pawpaw was designated as the Ohio state native fruit in 2009.