By Maddy Rohr, K-State Research and Extension news service
Manhattan, KS— While pawpaw trees are native to eastern Kansas, many people have never eaten the unique fruit that grows on the tree. Pawpaw is rarely sold commercially because of their short shelf-life.
“Fruit (from a pawpaw tree) resemble fat bananas and are generally up to six inches long and as much as three inches wide,” said Ward Upham, Kansas State University horticulture expert. “The taste is unique and is difficult to describe but is often said to resemble bananas or pineapple and has a texture somewhat like custard.”
Upham said pawpaw prefers well-drained, moderately acidic pH, moist soil and high organic matter content. Pawpaw trees may do better with partial shade, especially during the first 2-3 years and gardeners should protect the tree from high winds due to its large leaves, he said.
“Trees require cross-pollination, and so at least two, different varieties should be grown. These trees are pollinated by insects other than bees, such as beetles and flies, and must be planted close together, preferably no further than 30 feet apart in order to insure good pollination,” Upham said.
Upham suggests preparing the soil with organic material before receiving trees. The planting hole should be the same depth as the roots but 2-3 times as wide because of the tree’s fleshy roots.
“Keep newly planted trees well-watered. The soil should be moist but not waterlogged and keep the planting area completely free of weeds or any other type of vegetation within three feet of the trees,” Upham said.
Upham and his colleagues in K-State’s Department of Horticulture and Natural Resources produce a weekly Horticulture Newsletter with tips for maintaining home landscapes and gardens. The newsletter is available to view online or can be delivered by email each week.