Meet West Virginia’s unique fruit: the pawpaw

Have you ever tried a pawpaw?

This oblong, greenish brown or yellow fruit that has a sweet, custard-like flavor similar to that of a banana mixed with mango. You can find them growing wild on trees throughout West Virginia. You can eat them raw, but they’re more commonly used in all kinds of culinary creations like pie, bread, jelly, ice cream and even beer.

Nicknamed the West Virginia banana, the pawpaw is deeply ingrained in the state’s history — from its darker periods when a stand of pawpaw trees just across the river in Kentucky became the site of one of the bloodiest incidents in the Hatfield and McCoy feud, to happier occasions when the town of Paw Paw was incorporated and named for the trees that grow in abundance throughout the region.

If you have pawpaw trees on your property, you can harvest them yourself. The fruit begins to ripen in mid-August through September. It’s ready for picking when it’s soft to the touch and its yellow-green skin beings to develop dark splotches.

Due to its brief harvesting season and short shelf life, this delectable fruit can be hard to find in stores. Look for pawpaws during the fall at farmer’s markets and roadside stands throughout the state or in products at local businesses.

Check out some of the tasty pawpaw treats:

Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream in Charleston serves up delicious scoops of pawpaw ice cream once a year. It’s only available a couple of weeks in the fall, so once it’s gone, you’ll have to wait another year.

In A Jam, a Parkersburg-based business that specializes in jams and jellies, makes a sweet and creamy pawpaw butter that pairs well with bagels and cream cheese.

At Appalachian Distillery in Ripley, you can even find pawpaw-flavored moonshine.

Plan your trip right, and you might catch Hill & Hollow’s special “pawpawpalooza” dinner in Morgantown.

Berkeley Springs Brewing Company has even created the “Wap Wap,” a beer brewed with paw paw fruit.

If you’re feeling creative, try making your own pawpaw concoctions. Take your favorite recipe for banana pudding, for example, and just use pawpaw pulp in place of banana. Stir pawpaw pulp into cookie dough, or make a pawpaw smoothie. The possibilities are endless!

Where are you getting your taste of the pawpaw?

This post was last updated on October 18, 2017