Your own pawpaw patch

Many natives of rural North Carolina have memories of picking the ripe fruit of wild pawpaws in autumn. The pawpaw (Asimina triloba), a small tree (12-30 feet) of tropical lineage, produces 3- to 6-inch yellow fruits with a creamy texture and a flavor that resembles bananas, mangos or papayas. The pawpaw is slowly finding its way into commercial orchards and home gardens, thanks to research efforts at Kentucky State University. The university manages a clearinghouse of information on pawpaws at www.pawpaw.kysu.edu. The site lists 46 named varieties and sources of plants.

Pawpaws are native to much of the eastern half of the United States, where they're common as understory trees. In the garden they can tolerate light to moderate shade, but they produce more fruit in full sun. Moist, slightly acidic soil is best. Some protection from sun is critical in the first year or two for young transplants—this can be done with artificial shelters. To ensure cross-pollination necessary for fruiting, at least two should be planted together. Pawpaws are generally hardy in zones 5–8.

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