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Pondermostly camping and trail-making in the Ozarks
Picking wild pawpaws in the Ozarks



Here is what the fruit look like. (These are bigger than wild ones. Most of the wild ones are about thumb size.)



Link to more pictures on site by Neal Peterson:



You can eat a pawpaw in lots of ways. If they are ripe as you pick them, you can just break it open and smoosh as much as you can into your mouth. A sharp spoon works well.


My favorite way is to peel the fruit with a knife or potato peeler. It seems the skin has some bitterness and off-flavors and it is best to get rid of it. The inside is just pure goodness.




The bigger the bite, the better the flavor. With a big bite the custard like fruit just spreads out and finds taste buds you didn’t even know you had.


There are about a dozen pretty big seeds. It is sorta like eating watermelon; you just spit the seeds out. A big fancy pawpaw will have lots of fleshy fruit and a low percentage of seeds. The smallest wild ones can be almost all seeds sometimes.


Good luck in the pawpaw patch!


On to last page (contacts)

These first pictures are based on some professionally grown pawpaws, but you can still get the idea. (Growing pawpaws is great fun. See links in the blue area after the pix. And there are a few “wild” pictures at the very bottom.)


Pawpaw trees are pretty common near Mountain View. They tend to grow in the bottoms of the hollers. The easiest place to find them fruiting may be along rivers and streams, via canoe. They are an “under story” tree, growing in the shade of the main big trees. They have relatively big, tropical looking leaves. (In the shade they are much more spread out looking than this orchard tree.)




Ideally you pick a pawpaw when it is almost completely ripe. You can feel a little softness.


When ripe, pawpaws have a fairly strong “ripe fruit” smell. The best place to keep them as they ripen is a screened porch .


You will have to learn to judge ripeness. It is sorta like with peaches – they are fine at all stages, but people will have favorites. I prefer very ripe with maximum flavor.


These fancy pawpaws have been selected by Neal Peterson and others for the best taste (and bigger size, less seeds, etc.). The wild ones are fine, though. Occasionally you’ll get a little bitterness but nothing that is really bad (or bad for you).




Once peeled I rinse the fruit. If I am serving others, I will put it on a saucer and give them a knife and fork. If it is for me, I just chomp right into it, usually over the sink.





Links for growing your own:


Neal Peterson is the godfather of modern pawpaws. His are the best I have seen (not that I have seen that many…) or tasted. He started in the early 1980’s with the remnants of 5 historic collections by previous breeders, and with seeds from known cultivars. From this he started with over 800 seedlings, and selected the best, then grafted and did more controlled tests with those. The ones he now sells are the grafted very best of the best. You simply can not go wrong with his trees. However, most years they are sold out. (If you order by the end of summer, you may still get one the next spring. If not you can order for the following spring. Patience, grasshopper.)

Pawpaw trees from Neal Peterson:


Burntridge has the cheapest trees. Their “unnamed seedlings from parents of improved cultivars” at only $6 are a good bet for the parsimonious amongst us.

Pawpaw trees from Burntridge:

KSU is the biggest academic site, and they list many other sources I have not tried.


Here is my first “wild” picture, and it is hard to see what’s what. This is a small patch at the top of “peeper holler”. The small tree in the center, with the sun shinning on it, is a pawpaw. There is a circle of smallish trees like it, and no other pawpaws close by. My expert friend Patrick says this is probably a “clonal” patch, meaning there was originally one tree, which died, and these are the root suckers from it. He says if I graft or plant a different pawpaw nearby, which can then pollinate these, I may get fruit on them. Anyway, what you potential pickers can get from this picture is what a typical under story wild pawpaw looks like. Ideally you can find some bigger trees in a sunnier location.


I was hoping to find some wild patches full of fruit to take pictures of in October 06. No luck. Here is a different angle on the same small patch above. I cleared a few hickory trees out of it.

Click for some newer shots on picking wild pawpaw and growing your own.