If you like fruit trees, you can always plant the usual-apple, orange or peach. But if you're hankering for something more exotic that will also complement the rest of your landscaping, try a common pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba). It produces big, almost tropical fruit that taste like a cross between a banana and a mango.
While the pawpaw was originally native to the East, Native Americans spread it as far west as Kansas and almost as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. They had their reasons: pawpaw is the largest American fruit, growing up to 16 ounces. Due to the challenges of transporting ripe pawpaws, it's hard to find the pawpaw in your local grocery store. All the more reason to grow your own.
Nutritionally speaking, the pawpaw fruit is a treasure trove. Vegans will be happy to learn that pawpaw contains numerous amino acids humans need. The pawpaw provides as much potassium as bananas, and three times the Vitamin C in apples. They contain plenty of other important nutrients, too, such as magnesium and iron. The fruit has a creamy texture, making it perfect for desserts such as puddings, ice cream, sorbets, pies and smoothies. Bake with pawpaw by using it as a substitute for bananas or applesauce.
The pawpaw has great landscaping potential, eventually growing into 20- to 40-foot-high cone-shaped trees with thick, heavy leaves in the spring and a rich golden color in the fall. The caterpillars of zebra swallowtail butterflies feed exclusively on pawpaws, encouraging more colorful visitors to your garden. Even better, deer tend to stay away from pawpaw trees.
You can sometimes find pawpaw trees for sale at nurseries. If not, search online, and for best results, buy at least two trees that are not clones or siblings for pollination. Pawpaw trees will not pollinate themselves, and the flies and beetles tasked with the job can be unreliable, but unrelated trees and varietals will pollinate each other. Planting "Overleese" with "Mitchell" varieties should solve the pollination problem.*
* National Gardening Association (http://www.garden.org/articles/articles.php?q=show&id=247)
The ideal spot for a mature pawpaw is in a sunny location protected from the wind and endowed with plenty of rich, well-drained soil. The seedling should be protected from direct sunlight for the first year or two, so filter the sun with an open-ended barrel or some netting. After that, full sun is preferred.
You can start pawpaw seeds in containers with rich potting soil, such as Miracle-Gro® Seed Starting Potting Mix. Keep them shaded and transplant after a year or two. For transplanting instructions, read our article "Planting a Fruit Tree."
Water your pawpaw tree as soon as it's planted, and water as needed for the rest of the season, looking for signs such as wilting or discolored leaves. To encourage successful transplanting, you can also give the tree Miracle-Gro® Quick Start® Planting & Transplant Starting Solution, following the directions on the label. Like many other trees, pawpaws also benefit from mulch, which helps to keep soil temperatures low and retains moisture.* Apply a 3-inch layer of mulch, such as Scotts® Nature Scapes® Advanced Color Enhanced Mulch, on top of the soil and about six inches away from the tree's trunk to prevent disease.
Original article research & photos provided by www.ohiopawpaw.com