Thursday, September 23, 2010

Asimina triloba

Last week here in Athens County we had the Ohio Paw Paw Festival so I thought is might be appropriate to feature our native fruit today. I guess I should have done it last week to encourage all of you to attend the festival, but I guess I'm not always that organized. The leaves above are from a tree by the side of our house. The PawPaw is a tree that grows at the edge of the woods, light shade and all that, and over time will form a thicket of sorts. I had 2 groves of them when I lived in West Virginia.
In the spring they bloom with an unusual brown and green flower. Unfortunately, here they are often hit by frost so that some years we don't get any fruit at all. This year we were lucky and will have a small harvest. Unfortunately, neither of us are really fond of pawpaws - we just like the wonderful tropical look of the trees.

This is what the fruits looks like once it starts to get big. Green with a 'bloom' covering them

And here is one I picked yesterday that is very ripe and has even split open. Not sure if that was because it was so ripe or because it was so big and split when it hit the ground.

And here's what if looks like when you slice it in half. On the bottom right is a seed.
A bit about the tree, thanks to a bit of research. I learned a few things even though I've been growing them for years. Although it is common in most places, it is an endangered species in New Jersey and a threatened species in New York. There has been some promising research that shows that some of the chemicals contained in the seeds might be effective against cancers of the prostate and colon. The leaves contain trace amounts of a poison and so almost everything will find them unpalatable. The exception is the zebra swallowtail butterfly. Their larvae feed on the leaves and retain enough of the chemical to make the butterflies unattractive to things that would eat butterflies.
If you were interested in sowing some of the seeds, they should be collected as soon as the fruits are very ripe. They are cleaned and soaked briefly in a 10% clorox solution. Rinse very well after that. They are then placed in a zip loc bag with moist sphagnum or peat moss and kept at crisper temperatures for at least 100 days. Once planted, keep pots warm and don't expect any green to show for 9 weeks while the plants grows roots.
And here is our special baby - a variegated pawpaw. We hope to have some of these to sell in a year or two.

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