If you’ve been a reader of mine for a while, you already know that I frequently report on the many benefits of eating whole fruits.
In fact, last week I discussed how prunes can help you lose 23 percent more weight…and keep you satisfied, longer.
Today, let’s turn our focus to a delicious, but little-known fruit that’s making a comeback.
It’s even sometimes referred to as America’s best-kept secret. Other times it’s been called the American “custard apple.”
If you find yourself craving something naturally sweet this spring, I suggest reaching for this perfectly healthy treat.
Here’s everything you need to know, starting with its history in America…
The largest edible fruit indigenous to America
If you’ve never tried pawpaw—or perhaps you’ve never even heard of it—you’re truly missing out on something special…
The pawpaw tree (Asiminia triloba) is native to North America. So, the fruits are naturally resistant to local pests and don’t require agricultural chemicals for cultivation.
You can find it as far west as Nebraska and as far south as Florida, with roots up the east coast through North Carolina to New York.
The first written description of pawpaw came in 1541 from a Portuguese officer with a Spanish expedition exploring the southeastern United States. Then, for many years, the fruit continued to enjoy much popularity in the U.S.
In fact, George Washington planted pawpaw trees at his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, so he could regularly enjoy the fruit. He considered chilled pawpaw his favorite dessert.
Thomas Jefferson also worked on its cultivation in Virginia. He even shipped pawpaw seeds to his friends in France, where he had served as U.S. Minister in Paris.
And members of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition lived on pawpaw during their travels into the Louisiana Purchase and Pacific Northwest.
But then, in the 20th century, with the advent of refrigeration and the commercialization of food sales, pawpaw’s popularity began to decline. The fruit doesn’t travel well, and it has a short shelf life. (It will only last one or two days at room temperature. So, you eat it almost immediately upon picking.)
Pawpaw is making a comeback
If nothing else, pawpaw at least still retains a kind of folk following in America. And I vividly recall a popular children’s song during the late 1950s and 1960s:
Pickin’ up pawpaws
Put ‘em in your pocket….
Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch.
There are towns named after pawpaw in Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. And one of the tunnels on the historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal is named Paw Paw, way out near the end of the canal.
Today, you can find pawpaw as a supplement extract, as it contains loads of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
It’s even been commonly used in homeopathy to treat fever, vomiting, and inflammation of the throat and mouth. Plus, early research shows it can benefit cancer patients and help with weight loss.
To my amazement, pawpaw is also starting to gain a grass-roots following as part of the farm-to-table movement. In fact, in Montgomery County, Maryland—where I used to live year-round—they now host an annual pawpaw festival in late August/early September. You can even buy seeds to plant online!
Of course, if you live in the eastern part of the U.S., you can still find pawpaw growing in the wild.
Even better? They’re almost now in season!
This fruit tastes like a refreshing combination of cantaloupe, mango, banana, and melon. In addition to being called the American “custard apple,” it has also been called the Hoosier banana, Indian banana, Quaker delight, and West Virginia banana.
The fruit is shaped like a mango and has several large seeds shaped like lima beans. And the “custard” center is rich in minerals—including copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphate, potassium, and zinc.
If you can find fresh pawpaw in your community, I suggest you give it a try and let me know what you think! Send me an email to [email protected] or drop me a note on my Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you!