While reading an article about Mrs. Obama's White House vegetable garden, I was excited by a new (to many of us) fruit tree they've planted. The Paw Paw is the only temperate member of a tropical family of trees. You can't buy the pawpaw fruit in stores, so for years, the only way to eat them was straight from the tree. It grows along the Potomac in DC and in areas of Maryland. Thomas Jefferson had Paw Paw trees at Monticello and George Washington liked them as dessert. Lewis and Clark were fond of Paw Paws and when during their expedition in 1806 when other provisions ran low, they relied on pawpaws. This fruit has only recently been commercialized and not normally sold in grocery stores.
The fruit is an ugly skinned mango type that variously tastes like a cross between a mango and a sweet banana. Some people add the taste of pineapple in there too. The pawpaw is an understory tree, often appearing more like a bush than a tree, with fruit found singly or more often in clusters much like bananas. It doesn’t self-polinate, so other pawpaw plants need to be in the vicinity for it to produce fruit.
It may well be that our area could produce the Paw Paws because The plant was first recorded by the DeSoto expedition in the lower Mississippi Valley in 1541. Since here we are along the Mississippi and have a climate much like the DC area, it seems like a fun idea to order a few of these trees and see what happens. I hope we can do this on the campus this spring.
The northeast side of Tower Grove Park Near Magnolia and Grand has some Paw Paw trees and Forest Park has 2 near Forest Park Parkway and Lindell. I hope to add the campus of Concordia Seminary to this list.