What the hell is a pawpaw? Or Paw Paw, or paw paw or paw-paw; aka a custard apple and <insert name of your state here> banana, the nicknames abound. One of our oldest native fruits, pawpaws grow on shrubby trees throughout parts of the Midwest and Appalachia. Mine came from a friend who has several pawpaw trees on her property down the road.
As you can see from the photo above, they are a somewhat unattractive fruit, on the outside anyway. But split them in half and oh boy.
The photo here doesn't do justice to what these things really look like - hey, iPhone shot, what can I say - but pawpaw innards are creamy in color and texture. It's like pudding
FRUIT WITH PUDDING INSIDE, PEOPLE. It's for real.
The taste of pawpaw is usually described as mango and banana, a description I would agree with although there was a definite cantaloupe aroma and flavor in these (which may be just the variety - there are apparently several kinds - and my friend did not know what type she had).
I picked out the large, dark brown seeds to save for a possible jewelry project later - they are quite beautiful - and scooped out the the fruit. I found a pudding recipe (as in a more British definition of "pudding" - baked in a dish with milk, eggs, sugar and flour) and...wow. Very yummy, and very unique, and perhaps a perfect dish to impress company.
Kentucky seems to be the center of the pawpaw recipe universe, if you have a source for pawpaws and want to try something new. Ohio's Pawpaw Growers Association has a handy document on freezing the pulp and other useful information. The Michigan pawpaw season is at an end right now, so if you have missed it, make yourself an reminder for next fall. You won't be sorry!
Bonus material: An amusing commentary about pawpaw pudding between my brother and I on Facebook: