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If you're lucky, America's best secret fruit might be growing on a tree close to your backyard.
Pawpaw trees, the largest edible fruit trees native to North America, produce greenish-blackish fruit, usually three to six inches long.
A pawpaw is a homely, unassuming thing on the outside; it's possible to unwittingly pass a tree laden with half a dozen of the things.
Here's the catch: easy-bruising pawpaws have a short shelf life and don't currently fit in the business model of big agriculture.
By far the most fun way to get pawpaws, though, is to take to the woods and pretend you are a hunter-gatherer. Pawpaws at the peak of ripeness simply fall from the tree, whereupon they get smashed and icky. If you strike pawpaw gold—either in the woods or at a farmer's market—you need to have an action plan. The members of the Lewis and Clark expedition ate pawpaws for pleasure, and, for a period in Missouri in 1806, subsistence. The small but enthusiastic pawpaw community encompasses both professional and amateur growers, and it culminates at gatherings like the Ohio Pawpaw Festival, a laid-back event now in its 16th year, where family hula-hooping workshops and presentations on pawpaw propagation balance out a robust beer garden and music stage. A scattered network of academics and horticulturalists are researching to see if that could change, if someday a growing and marketing strategy could make pawpaws an enticing new product in the produce aisle--the next POM Wonderful.
Pawpaw trees are great for landscaping, and a grafted tree may bear fruit in two years, but they can be tricky. Ask around at your local farmers market if you're in the Midwest or Mid-Atlantic regions, where the odd dozen or so pawpaws may show up around September or October. I found my first pawpaws accidentally, while hiking within city limits of the Southeast Ohio town where I live. So the key is to pick almost-ripe pawpaws, the ones whose stems break off with no resistance from the branch. Pawpaw-flavored craft beer is a dynamic little pocket of the pawpaw world, and it's perhaps one of the most accessible ways to bring pawpaws to the people. They brew the Weasel Paw Pawpaw Pale Ale, an English-style pale ale flavored with pawpaw pulp. Once you separate it from the seeds and skin, it's already a handy puree, almost like the pulp of a ripe hachiya persimmon. The pawpaw's most distinct flavor compounds are volatile, so it's best to use it in recipes that don't expose it to heat: think frozen and icebox desserts, smoothies, or salsas.

Thanks to copious amounts of flour and sugar, pawpaw functions well in homey cakes, cookies, and quick breads, where its flavors are subtle.
These lost-and-found fruits are both abundant and rare, and this puts those of us with heartfelt stakes in the Pawpaw Conspiracy in the strange place of wanting to get lots of people excited about a semi-secret, wild food. Since then I've stood facing the stoves of Martha Stewart Living magazine, showed off the granite melangeur at Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, and written for the North Bay Bohemian, The Oregonian, Saveur, MIX, and Section M.
You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. A pawpaw's flavor is sunny, electric, and downright tropical: a riot of mango-banana-citrus that's incongruous with its temperate, deciduous forest origins.
The best way to enjoy a pawpaw is right there in the woods, tearing into it as if you had claws. An abundance of folksy nicknames, for one: Hoosier banana, Indian banana, custard apple, Quaker delight. Festival-goers queue up for free samples of pawpaw ice cream, a sweet and tasty introduction to the enticing possibilities of pawpaw cuisine.
Whatever the case, the far-flung, diverse, and loosely affiliated pawpaw scene is an exciting place to be right now. It's not cheap, but you can have fresh pawpaws shipped to you in season, and frozen pawpaw pulp year-round. A ripe pawpaw lay squashed in the middle of the trail, revealing its bright yellow interior. Like most brewers making pawpaw beers, they source foodservice-size buckets of frozen pawpaw pulp from Integration Acres. They do well in the refrigerator for about a week if fully ripe, three weeks if a little underripe. To extract it, halve the pawpaws with a knife and squish them with your bare hands through a colander set over a large bowl (an even better alternative is a conical strainer with a wooden pestle.) The pulp freezes well in a Ziploc bag for up to six months. Long-cooked, homemade pawpaw preserves I've had mixed success with, though Integration Acres' pawpaw jam (which cuts the pawpaw with berries) is divine on a cracker with chevre.
In five years, could pawpaws be the next ramps, eliciting sneers of disdain from trend-hoppers suffering pawpaw hype fatigue? In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. Tromping around in the woods seeking pawpaws makes me feel more a little more human, and the pawpaw's enticing taste is only one of its rewards.

They also have a subtle kick of a yeasty, floral aftertaste a bit like unfiltered wheat beer.
Our early American ancestors enjoyed pawpaws for centuries, spreading them as far west as Kansas.
The specialty foods company Earthy Delights says that requests for pawpaws have gone up every year since NPR first aired a story about them in 2011. I glanced up, spotted more pawpaws well within my reach, and unexpectedly entered into a torrid feral fruit love affair.
The fruit on a pawpaw tree won't ripen all at once; the ideal pawpaw spot is one you can return to easily and often.
At Weasel Boy, they add the thawed pawpaw after fermentation to create a secondary ferment before filtering.
It oxidizes quickly, so when storing pawpaw pulp in the refrigerator, stir in a little lemon juice and keep the air out by pressing plastic wrap directly on the surface. I hope not, but if so, you'll still find me out in the woods, feverishly scanning the low, leafy canopy for just-ripe quarry to pluck.
We selected the timezone 'UTC' for now, but please set date.timezone to select your timezone. In 1541, the expedition of conquistador Hernando de Soto recorded Native Americans growing and eating pawpaws in the Mississippi Valley. Pawpaws sing with dairy products, so incorporating them with a panna cotta or just spooning some over a good plain yogurt always pleases.
And even though they had to clear pawpaw trees to create farmable land, white settlers savored pawpaw fruit—often the only fresh fruit available nearby. A floral and yeasty brew with an unmistakable pawpaw finish, it's available on tap and in kegs only from May through September.
They say, 'Does this grow here?' Beer can be a good ambassador and promotional tool for it.

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