[NAFEX] zone 4 pawpaw update

loneroc loneroc at countryspeed.com
Wed Sep 29 06:31:04 EDT 2010

mIEKAL et al,

The U of Wisconsin Arboretum in Madison has Iowa "native" pawpaws that ripen 
every year and, based on my few tastes, are small but were tropical custardy 
in flavour.  In one of my chats with the Director Emeritus, Ed Hasselkus, he 
said that there was a reasonable possibility that the Iowa plants originated 
from seeds spat out by railroad passengers since the plants are generally 
found near the tracks.  Of course pawpaws are often found in river bottoms, 
just where tracks run, so the distributional correlation could merely be 

Of course there those who theorize that all northernmost pawpaws in the 
country originated through deliberate planting by Indians.  This would 
explain why many of the best tasting fruit come from the northern part of 
the range---these trees have been filtered through human taste buds rather 
than selected by the coons, possums and mastodons who are/were the most 
frequent consumers further south.  These critters may have less 
discriminating pawpaw palates than  we do.

I've grown pawpaws for many years here in zone 3 in SW Wisconsin.  The 
plants survive, but I've never seen a fruit.  The trees (of Iowa, Illinois 
and Michigan origin) kill to the ground in winter about half of time and 
have to resprout from secondary buds in many of the years where the wood 
survives above the snowline (not too many snowy winters around here any 
more).  Every now and then there's no damage but since the growth never 
makes it past 6-7 feet there's no fruit to be had.  Sigh.

Steve  Herje  Lone Rock, WI USA, USDA zone 3, with a maximum winter low 
of -43F or so in the twelve years I've lived in this cold place, and an all 
time low of -53F--the coldest temperature ever recorded at a US Weather 
Service station up to that time.  It's probably been surpassed elsewhere by 
now.  Five miles away as the crow flies, they get peaches most years---Zone 
5 on the bluff tops.  My 10 Siberian C peaches only ever produced one flower 
from the whole lot.  They are gone.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "mIEKAL aND" <qazingulaza at gmail.com>
To: "North American Fruit Explorers" <nafex at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 8:41 AM
Subject: [NAFEX] zone 4 pawpaw update

> The PA Golden pawpaws that fruited for the first time for me don't
> look like they will ripen on the tree. They are still quite hard, not
> soft to the touch, & have at most 2 weeks more of non-freezing temps.
> John Gordon had told me that this is the shortest season pawpaw that
> he knows of & the earliest ripening in his planting.  I did find one
> on the ground tho that had fallen off several weeks ago & it was fully
> ripe & I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor & texture, custardy
> with a strong flavor of green or not quite ripe banana.....
> More concerning is that the oldest tree which had maybe 20 fruits on
> it, lost 3-4 of its main branches, the branches at the crotch look
> very weak, & I'm seeing some kind of rot, but that may have formed
> after the crotch started giving way.
> Cleaning seeds looks like it'll be quite challenging, I seem to
> remember someone posting that they use some kind of caustic like
> baking soda to get the mucilaginous seed casing off.
> The newest batch of seedlings I'm growing out is a mix of all of John
> Gordon's varieties, so in 8-9 years I'll let you all know if I find
> any more possibilities for the northern tier of pawpaw culture.
> & by the way, I really don't think hardiness is an issue in zone 4,
> I've never seen any winter kill on any of the plants.  it's just
> getting the fruit to ripen on the tree.
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