The pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a native fruit-bearing tree with a round to oval form. It grows across North America - from Texas to Ontario. The leaves are long and dark green with a pointed tip, and can grow up to one foot long and six inches wide. But compared to many other native tree species, the pawpaw is not considered large. It may reach up to 25 feet high and 25 feet wide under the right sun and soil – and if properly cared for of course. But it is the fruit of the pawpaw that makes it so sought after!
The largest edible fruit native to North America, it is similar in shape and size to the mango. The pawpaw fruit will start off green and turn soft like a peach when ripe (ripe fruit can vary in colour from yellow to brown). It is said to taste like a cross between the banana and mango, and if that isn’t strange enough, the fruit has firmness comparable to that of the avocado. But ask anyone who’s tried one – they are dangerously good.
The pawpaw’s dark purple flowers are a beautiful spring feature, and they are fertilized by small flies and beetles. Working with these insects, the trees must exchange genetically diverse pollen with other trees in order to produce fruit. Because these trees are rare in the city, they must be planted in pairs.
The best place to plant a pawpaw is in a partially shaded, well-drained area - at least until it has become established and can tolerate more sun. This temporary intolerance can easily be overcome by building a small tree shelter for the first year after planting. An excellent native tree, the pawpaw can add beauty to a backyard, produce tasty fruit, and give you something interesting to bring up with your foodie friends.
The Backyard Tree Planting Program is supported by Ontario Power Generation, York Region, Ontario Trillium Foundation, The City of Markham and Toronto Hydro.