A Treatise on the Pawpaw (1905)

Another find for the history buffs out there. It’s a little pamphlet by James Little of Indiana from over 100 years ago all about pawpaws, and trying to figure out why they are a neglected fruit.

There is no fruit of such great excellence that has been so long neglected as the pawpaw. It was stated at the last meeting of the Indiana Horticultural Society that the pawpaw attracted more attention at the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition than any other fruit on exhibition. It seemed to be but little known to most people who visited that most wonderful horticultural display. So many people wanted to taste the pawpaw that the limited number of specimens on the table had to be carefully guarded.

The reason that the pawpaw is not generally found in the market is on account of its perishable nature. The fruit does not bear handling like the banana. They may be kept sometimes if picked a little firm but are better in quality if allowed to hang on the tree until they drop to the ground.

I have had perhaps more experience in attempting to cultivate the pawpaw than any one else. I have made many failures but feel that I have at least succeeded in learning the which was one of the hidden mysteries of nature. The pawpaw tree is by nature an undergrowth and necessarily must be shaded when it first comes up. My plan which has been entirely successful is to make a hill like a watermelon hill and plant about five seeds or three inches deep in the fall. In part for protection but mainly for shading the plants when they come up I place a barrel with both heads out over the hill and let it remain for a year or two. After that the barrel may be removed and then the plants will bear the sun. It must not be expected that the plants will come up until harvest or later. The plants will not get more than two or three inches high the first year but the root will be proportionately much larger than the top. The second year the plants will grow six or eight inches high and after that they will greatly increase in growth from year to year. It will take them about six or eight years to come into bearing.

He recommends wood ash as a great pawpaw fertilizer, but old building plaster as the best. He also mentions the he has developed a cultivar he called “The Uncle Tom.” Anybody know if that’s still around?

I have to admit, it’s a little sad seeing someone over a hundred years ago wondering why such a fruit is so neglected, knowing that nothing has changed in the intervening century.


I think Pawpaw will have its place in the Asian market more so because it is similar to the Cherimoya and the sweet custer family. Cliff England sent most of Jerry Lehman large and tasty pawpaw seeds and some of the best variety like Halvin to South Korea for research and propagation. My Mango, trial seedlings, and Shenandoah are loaded with fruits this year due to hand pollination with a small paint brush. I like them alot. Nothing better than a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream with lots of pawpaws topping.



You’re making me jealous, Tony. My seedlings are a good 7 years away from bearing age. My only hope for the near future is that my one grafted Sunflower really does bear within a few years and really is self-fertile.

On the bright side, my 3yo daughter has been asking when we’re going to hiking for pawpaws again, so I guess last year’s foraging made enough of an impression that it may become a tradition.

The best way to get the pawpaw fruits sooner is to graft with the pawpaw scionwood with flower buds on it. The graft will flower the same year but I usually knocked them off and let it grows for one season then let it fruits the following year. They fruits better in full sun than partial shade.


Thanks for posting the article,Tim.I wonder if any of the orchards mentioned can be traced and found,but by now,they may be parking lots or housing developments.
Those are nice looking Pawpaw fruit,Tony.I’m still waiting.The biggest tree is a Wabash,at about four feet. Brady

absolutely. Other than some berries, which are tiny, pawpaw is probably the only sizeable fruit which is native to america. Where is ‘american pride’ when it comes to fruits – considering that peaches, apples and nectarines are all ‘immigrants’ ?. Worse is that >95% of all of these immigrants need to be nuked with pesticides, being difficult to grow organically.

Pawpaws are also quite nutritious, having more protein than most other fruits.


Here are your seeds of the C. DAVIS pawpaw. Hopefully, these seedlings will bring me some tasty fruits in the near future. I will let them grow for a season then harvest scion woods to graft on a larger understock for faster fruiting.


I feel similarly about the American persimmon. How have we not developed these fruits in all the time we’ve had? But those are at least small, gross until ripe, and mushy when ripe, which might do it. Pawpaw is big, no worse pre-ripe than any other fruit, and I think claims about how it can’t be transported are overblown. Is it really just the delicacy of transplants and seedlings that have held it back?

Admittedly, I’ve only tasted Asian persimmons so far, and maybe the American species really is significantly inferior. Won’t know until my trees mature.


That’s a good idea,Tony.I may do the same. Brady

i agree, @tjasko
it just so happens that asian persimmons are really hard to beat. Either this or i probably haven’t tasted a really good variety of american persimmon…
i have tasted pawpaws only once, and i like it. Seems like the nutritional value, plus the zero need for pesticides are what made me prejudiced in favor of pawpaws(as well as for jujube’s and mulberries)…
persimmons(asian or american) are less resistant to insects and diseases.

Many people agree with me that American persimmons have a more complex and interesting flavor than most Asian persimmons. Asian persimmons are sweet, but they’ve kind of had their distinct flavor bred out of them, I think. I also love pawpaws. David, my Sunflower does self pollinate, but I lost the fruit this year because it was so hot and dry. Those two fruits are really what got me interested in Garden Web, and now this site, because hardly anyone in my home region knew anything about them. They are two of my favorite fruit.

It makes sense though. Millions of people watch those cooking shows, but how many are really going to cook well like that? Not many. It’s easier to watch TV. You have to take some risk and personal investment. Figure out how to do it. Most people are too busy, afraid, lazy, and most people move every 5 years!
John S

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I found a grove of wild persimmons at the head of a cove on the lake once. I had been walking all morning and I was really hungry( that always improves the flavor of food) . It was late fall and the persimmons had been frosted several times. Many were laying on the ground but there was still plenty on the trees. They were a little shriveled like a prune. You could put one to your lips and the skin would crack open, you could suck out the sweet pulp and leave the seeds and skin behind. They were delicious!


that is sad! Sad because the american persimmon is often reduced to being THE rootstock, and not the graft… I have never tasted excellent american persimmons, i hope they become as popular as asian persimmons… Can’t even find them anywhere where am at…

Tony- beautiful photos! Sometime I’d sure love to see some pics of your entire tree(s). How large are they? What leaf (ie age) did yours first produce? I have some 3 year old trees that are only about 3.5 feet tall and have grown painfully slow- though this year they have grown faster than past years.

One of my favorite cooking shows- Chopped - actually had Pawpaws as a required ingredient for the desert round! I literally cheered at my TV since, as you said, I’d never seen a cooking show use Pawpaws and I thought it might help raise some awareness for the fruit. It was fun to see the chef’s try to deal with the fruit, which they clearly were unfamiliar with. Unfortunately it didn’t get much attention and of course didn’t mention where they were sourced from, which would have been fun to know. Anyway, it was still nice to see it on the menu and hear them talk about it Here is the video…the PAWPAW segment starts at 25:30 so you can skip to that.


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Here is my 8 yrs old Mango pawpaw from Starkbros. I also grafted a Sunflower, Seedling, and Jerry Lehman VE-21 on it. It is 11 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Fruited on the 5th season.

Here is a 4 yrs old and 5 feet tall Susquehanna with a 2 yrs old Halvin grafted on it. It fruited for the first time last year.

4 yrs old and 5 feet tall Shenandoah also fruited last year.

My 3 yrs old graftef wild pawpaw, I name it Pawmoya. Fruited this year.

3 yrs old 4 feet tall PersimmonBob wild pawpaw from the Ozark.



Thanks so much, Tony! I enjoyed those photos as much as any I’ve seen in a long time. For whatever reason I’ve become quite an admirer of pawpaws but they just aren’t as common as many other trees discussed and shown on this site. Your photos were very informative to me. I have 3 wild pawpaws and a Shenandoah and Susquehanna. The petersons are still potted because they didn’t arrive until June and I hated to plant them in the hot, dry summertime. The 3 wild transplants are on their 2ed year at my place and are probably about 3 years old. They are just over 3 feet tall but have finally started growing pretty quickly. I built a shade over them their first year but now they are in full sun and seem to like it- even though all the wild ones Ive seen are in partial or nearly full shade. Anyway, I like these trees and appreciate your photos. Thanks…

They loved Urea Nitrogen. I gave them some sprinkled and watered them real well every 2 weeks from May to the end of June. Their leaves are dark green.



I see you’ve got stakes by each tree, but they don’t look connected. Any purpose to those?

Awesome pictures! Thanks. They give me hope that some day I might be able to try a fruit. This year my pawpaw trees are finally starting to take off.