By |19 Sep 2023 at 4:52 PM
National Pawpaw Day 2023: Date, History, Facts about Pawpaw

National Pawpaw Day is observed annually on the third Thursday of September to honor the native North American fruit that tastes like a combination of mango, banana, and occasionally other fruits. With over 60 varieties and a distinctive, creamy texture, it is surprising that the pawpaw is not better known.

The pawpaw, also known as the Kentucky banana and Hillbilly mango, is the largest native American fruit and blooms throughout the South. The pawpaw was an essential part of traditional Native American diets and is used for a variety of purposes today, despite its scarcity on store shelves.

The background of National Pawpaw Day

Before the arrival of Europeans in North America, Native American communities from Florida to the Midwest utilized the pawpaw in a variety of methods. The Iroquois used it to make tiny cakes or fruit jerky, and other Native American tribes such as the Osage and Algonquin also consumed it. The fruit can be consumed fresh or baked into breads and desserts. It can reach a height of approximately 6 inches and has a distinctively custard-like, creamy texture, intense aroma, and flavor reminiscent of mangoes and bananas.

The Spanish became aware of it during Hernando de Soto’s 1540 expedition. According to legend, George Washington’s favorite dessert was cultivated by Thomas Jefferson, who shipped pawpaw seedlings to France during his tenure in office. Later, during their exploration of the American West, when they ran out of other sustenance, Lewis and Clark wrote that they subsisted on pawpaws. During the Great Depression, the pawpaw gained popularity as a substitute for other, scarcer fruits, earning it the moniker “poor man’s banana.”

After the conclusion of World War II, the introduction of other exotic fruits led to a decline in the popularity of the pawpaw, which is difficult to store in large supermarkets due to its short shelf life. Today, it is primarily available at farmer’s markets and is still highly regarded for its unique texture and sweetness. Ohioans commemorate the Ohio Pawpaw Festival every September, where attendees can sample various pawpaw preparations, compete in contests and cook-offs, and honor this uniquely American fruit.

National Pawpaw Day aims to introduce the creamy, custard-like fruit to those who have never tried it. This seasonal fruit is harvested at its apex from late August until the first frost. Given that markets and festivals across the nation offer trials of pawpaw, there are ample opportunities to enjoy its flavor!

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Substitute pawpaws for bananas in your preferred banana pudding recipe. They will impart a surprising and mild flavor to the pudding!

The pawpaw, when combined with large quantities of sugar and flour, makes an excellent addition to pastries and quick breads.

Fruit-flavored beer is gaining in popularity, and the pawpaw’s flavor complements craft brews precisely.

With its buttery consistency, pawpaw is an excellent substitute for mango in any mango sorbet recipe.

The sweetness of pawpaws makes them an ideal ingredient for handmade jams and preserves that require extended simmering.


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