More than 30 people attended the Pawpaw Party on Thursday, hosted by the Core Arboretum to eat and celebrate the beloved Appalachian fruit.
“They are not at all rare,” said Zach Fowler, the WVU Core Arboretum director. “They are all throughout Appalachia, so as far south as northern Georgia and as north as New York, so they have a fairly large range.”
Every year, the Core Arboretum shares the wild grown fruit from the property at its parties. This will mark the fourth year it has held the event.
Depending on the yield of fruit, the Arboretum hopes to hold a couple more Pawpaw Parties before the season is over, Fowler said.
The pawpaw is the largest fruit native to West Virginia, and while they grow everywhere, they aren’t found in grocery stores because of how fragile the pawpaw fruit is, Fowler said.
“The way to eat it is to eat the custardy flesh,” Fowler said. “You can cut them in half and use a spoon to dig out any of the seeds.”
The best way to describe how a pawpaw tastes is a mixture between a mango and banana, Fowler said.
“It’s banana and pineapple-ly; sort of tropically flavored,” said Julia Wolf, an attendee who tried the native fruit for the first time. “It doesn’t look like it should be this good, but it is.”
For one father and son, the event was also a place for them to try the fruit.
“I think [the pawpaw] was pretty good,” said Michael Ginsbury, of Morgantown. “It was a lot sweeter than I thought it was going to be.”
“I don’t think it was good, but it was a tiny bit good,” added Archer, Ginsbury’s 5-year-old son.
Plastic bags and planting guide handouts were provided for those who wished to save their seeds and start growing their own pawpaws at home.
“I’m going to see how far north they will grow and maybe take some to my family,” said Sara Guthrie, of Morgantown. “I can’t really grow them here at my rental, my landlords probably wouldn’t be very happy to come back and find wild pawpaw trees in their backyard.”
It is important not to let the seed freeze or dry out, as this can destroy the dormant embryo. The seed must have a period of cold, moist stratification for 70 to 100 days, either planted in the late fall and let set over winter, or in a refrigerator inside a plastic bag with moss, according to the planting guidelines from the Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension Program.
The second annual WV Pawpaw Festival is coming up on Sept. 28 at the Arboretum and will feature various activities, live music and local chefs.
“If you like the taste, come back and get another one, and even if you don’t, try another one because each one if different,” Fowler said. “Just like how some people like their bananas more or less ripe, the same goes for pawpaws.”