Bedford resident Frank Richichi has just harvested his annual crop of pawpaws, a fruit many peopl have never seen or tasted. Frank generously offers his harvest to friends, who eagerly snatch up the unusual fruit, not to be found in the grocery store. Frank describes the taste as, “Think banana/cantaloupe rather than papaya/mango.” The texture is creamy and custard-like.
Frank and Maureen Richichi have made cookies, quick bread, and custard pies from the fruit. It’s also suitable for jam and possibly “smoothies.” The fruit is rich in vitamins and minerals and may have positive health benefits.
Frank says this was a bumper year for his Asimina triloba, a tree that produces the largest native edible American fruit. Calling himself a “PawPaw purveyor and proselytizer,” Frank noted that the pawpaw is an understory tree that likes wet areas. It is on the list of recommended plants for habitat restoration.
He planted the trees on his Norma Road property about 18 years ago, purchasing them from Miller’s Nursery mail order as seedlings. They are grafted trees.
He said, “No one I met had ever seen or even heard of them other than some friends from the South.”
You may have sung the classic Burl Ives song many times, but did you ever wonder about that pawpaw patch?
For the arborists, the Asimina triloba is a small deciduous tree that is native to the eastern United States and southern Canada. Pawpaws are the northernmost member of the Annonaceae plant family that consists mainly of tropical and subtropical plants. The fruit can measure two-to-six inches and one-to-three inches wide.
Hernando de Soto, the Spanish explorer, was the first European to observe Native Americans in the southeastern U.S. both cultivating and eating pawpaw fruit in 1541.
Kentucky State University has a Pawpaw Research Project with a history of the fruit and its nutritional information. https://www.kysu.edu/academics/college-acs/school-of-ace/pawpaw/pawpaw-description-and-nutritional-information.php