NJ botanist hopes to boost awareness of North American fruit known as pawpaw
It’s autumn in New Jersey and it is time to head out to a local farm where a delicious native fruit grows.
No, it’s not apples, but a fruit known as pawpaw.
Never heard of the pawpaw? Most New Jersey residents haven’t either. News 12’s Brian Donohue says that it almost tastes like a combination of a mango and a banana.
Unlike apples, pawpaw are native to a wide swath of North America, including New Jersey. It is North America’s largest fruit.
The “Johnny Appleseed” of pawpaw in New Jersey is Charlie West, a Rutgers-trained botanist.
“I grew up in Ohio where they were wild on the farm. I can remember when I was probably 4, 5, 6 years old, going with my bother back to the edge of the woods where they were growing and we would pick them,” West says.
West has 100 pawpaw trees growing on his 35-acre Branchburg farm. He also sells pawpaw trees from his nursery.
“Basically no diseases. The Japanese beetle did not touch them. The spotted lanternfly doesn’t seem to like them,” West says.
Many New Jersey residents are unfamiliar with the fruit, and West says that he wants to change that. He says that pawpaw likely did not have huge commercial success because the fruit doesn’t ship well.
“Very big demand compared to even five years ago,” West says.
But one thing to note is that some studies have found that pawpaw contain a small amount of naturally occurring neurotoxins, which suggests that one may want to use caution about eating large amounts of the fruit.