“Where, oh where, is pretty little Suzie? Where, oh where, is pretty little Suzie? Where, oh where, is pretty little Suzie?” asks the traditional folk song. “Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch.”
Suzie knows more about pawpaws than most, it seems. North America’s largest native edible fruit grows wild in 26 US states, including Texas, Ohio, West Virginia, New York and Michigan and all the way up to Ontario, Canada. Yet most people have never heard of it.
That’s because pawpaws have never been sold on a large scale. Commercial farmers have long shunned them because they need a special growing environment of low, wet areas and because they spoil only a few days after harvest – so you won’t see the yellow-green fruit next to the grapes at the grocery store. Nevertheless, a community of avid pawpaw fans across the US – from festival organisers and chefs to scientists and independent farmers – is expanding the love for this forgotten fruit, and they want you to love it too.
“They are so delicious,” said Michael Judd, author of For the Love of Paw Paws: A Mini Manual for Growing and Caring for Paw Paws – From Seed to Table. During the harvest season (typically a few weeks in late summer or early autumn), his diet consists mainly of pawpaws taken right off the branch. “It’s a nutrient-rich superfood,” he added, listing off the pawpaw’s many attributes: antioxidants, all the amino acids, magnesium, copper, zinc, iron, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin C.
To help get the word out, Judd will be hosting his seventh annual pawpaw festival this September, on his farm in Frederick, Maryland, which includes tastings, jam making, pawpaw ice cream, music, lectures and more.