Scientific Name(s): Asimina triloba (spp.)
Abundance: rare
What: fruit
How: raw, jam, jelly
Where: moist, shady woods
When: late summer
Nutritional Value: protein, calories, Vit C, A, minerals K, Mg, Ca, essential amino acids.

Medicinal Summary: Anti-lice shampoo was made from crushed seeds

Leaf Arrangement: Simple, alternate leaves along the stems.

Leaf Shape: Ovate to lanceolate leaves, typically 8 to 12 inches in length. Reminds me of the sole of a sandal in shape.

Leaf Venation: Very pronounced pinnate veins. 

Leaf Color: Foliage will be green on top and lighter green to gray underneath, with a smooth texture. Crushed leaves release a strong chemical/insecticidal smell.

Leaf Margin: Intact leaf edge.

Flower Structure: Large, maroon to brown flowers, often bell-shaped, with three petals. Flower scent is similar to spoiled meat.

Flower Size: Individual flowers can be 2 to 3 inches in diameter.

Fruit: Large, greenish-yellow to brownish fruit resembling a mango, typically 3 to 6 inches in length.

Seed Size: Seeds within the fruit are dark brown, smooth, and about 1 inch in length.

Bark: Smooth and brownish-gray on young trees, becoming more fissured and darker with age.

Height: Pawpaw trees typically range from 15 to 30 feet in height.

Pawpaw fruit on tree.

Close-up of Pawpaw flowers. They smell like spoiled met to attract flies as pollinators.
Pawpaw Flower

Almost ripe pawpaw fruit.

Small, almost ripe pawpaw.

Pawpaw seeds.

Pawpaw leaves are tropical-looking.

Pawpaw seedling. Note the alternating leaves.

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.

The banana-custard-like flavor/texture of pawpaw fruits leads many to consider it to be the best tasting fruit available (George Washington was a huge fan). However, once the pawpaw fruit is picked it begins to self-ferment almost immediately, making it unsuitable for shipping or selling in stores. They must be eaten right after harvesting or quickly turned into jam or jelly.

Pawpaw leaves have a sandal-like shape, being narrower a the base where it connects to the tree, widening out towards the end of the leaf, with a point at the very tip. A crushed leaf has a very strong, pungent odor, kind of like an insecticide.
The large pawpaw seeds actually do contain several insecticidal compounds and certain Native Americans used the powdered seeds to control lice. These seeds are still used in several over-the-counter lice treatments. It may be as simple to make as heating finely-crushed pawpaw seeds combined with baby shampoo in a crockpot at low heat for 8 hours, allowing to cool, then applying to the hair but I haven't actually tried this. If you do it, you are on your own!

The bark makes decent cordage but stripping it may often kill the tree.

The seeds should be planted right away after harvesting as they dry out and die otherwise. Pawpaws are NOT self-fertile so you need at least two separate trees and three is better, ideally grown from seeds from unrelated trees. The flowers pre-date bees and are pollinated by flies, instead.  Growers have been known to hang bits of raw meat up in the trees when flowers appear to attract flies as the meat rots.

Buy my book! Outdoor Adventure Guides Foraging covers 70 of North America's tastiest and easy to find wild edibles shown with the same big pictures as here on the Foraging Texas website.

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