Fruit Or Wood?
The pawpaw fruit has a unique flavor, often described as custard texture with a mix of tropical banana, mango and pineapple. The flavor varies between trees. A small minority of people find the taste objectionable. The trees seldom grow large enough to produce a marketable wood.
General Production Notes:
Pawpaw are propagated from seed and grafted with scion wood or buds from desirable cultivars. Rooted stock is available from several commercial nurseries and private growers as well as from the Missouri Department of Conservation nursery. Grafted stock is also available but the supply is limited. Seeds must not be allowed to freeze or dry out. It requires stratification in order to germinate and typically sprout in mid-summer. Pawpaws grow best in a fertile, moist, well-drained soil. They have a brittle tap root and transplanting can be problematic although there are anecdotal reports of high survival rates from 3rd year dormant bare root stock. Transplants require a steady supply of moisture at least during their first year of planting. Young trees should be protected from full sun during the first year or two in the orchard. Because they have large leaves, pawpaws should be grown where they have some protection from the wind. While it’s not difficult to grow pawpaws, it does require an extended period of time to produce the stock.
Plants are set 4-5 feet apart in the row. Since earliest production is likely to be five years in the future and the plants may remain in the orchard for an extended time, planting within the existing rows is probably the best option. Pawpaws will sucker, forming patches with a single genetic identity. Fruit is borne on old growth. The flowers are produced early in the spring and pollinated by carrion flies. The plants are not self fruitful; if there are no local trees it will be necessary to plant a second cultivar to insure fertilization. Production is highest on trees growing in full sunlight. Pawpaws have few significant insect pests; the most common is the caterpillar of the zebra swallowtail butterfly. The pawpaw peduncle borer, a small moth larva, burrows into the fleshy tissues of the flower, causing it to wither and drop. Deer will not feed on the leaves but may rub young trunks and eat fallen fruit. The fruit is also eaten by raccoons, opossums, and other wildlife.
Cultivars are selected to optimize size of fruit and flavor and minimize the number of seeds.