From the Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension Program
by Snake C. Jones and Desmond R. Layne

Pawpaw Description and Nutritional Information

From The KYSU Extension Bulletin, "Cooking with Pawpaws"


The pawpaw is the largest edible fruit that is native to the United States. Pawpaws are indigenous to 26 states in the U.S., in a range extending from northern Florida to southern Ontario and as far west as eastern Nebraska. They have provided delicious and nutritious food for Native Americans, European explorers and settlers, and wild animals. They are still being enjoyed in modern America, chiefly in rural areas. There are 27 varieties (Table 1) currently available from more than 50 commercial nurseries in the U.S.

Most enthusiasts agree that the best way to enjoy pawpaws is to eat them raw, outdoors, picked from the tree when they are perfectly ripe. But there are also numerous ways to use them in the kitchen and extend the enjoyment of their tropical flavor beyond the end of the harvest season.

The unique flavor of the fruit resembles a blend of various tropical flavors, including banana, pineapple, and mango. The flavor and custard-like texture make pawpaws a good substitute for bananas in almost any recipe. The common names, ‘poor man’s banana,’ ‘American custard apple,’ and ‘Kentucky banana’ reflect these qualities.

Pawpaw’s beautiful, maroon colored flowers appear in the spring, and the clusters of fruit ripen in the fall. The Kentucky harvest season is from late August to mid-October. Ripe pawpaw fruits are easily picked, yielding to a gentle tug. Shaking the tree will make them fall off. (If you try this, don’t stand under the fruit clusters, and don’t say we didn’t warn you.)
Ripeness can also be gauged by squeezing gently, as you would judge a peach. The flesh should be soft, and the fruit should have a strong, pleasant aroma. The skin color of ripe fruit on the tree ranges from green to yellow, and dark flecks may appear, as on bananas. The skin of picked or fallen fruit may darken to brown or black.

Fully ripe pawpaws last only a few days at room temperature, but may be kept for a week in the refrigerator. If fruit is refrigerated before it is fully ripe, it can be kept for up to three weeks, and can then be allowed to finish ripening at room temperature. Ripe pawpaw flesh, with skin and seeds removed, can be pureed and frozen for later use. Some people even freeze whole fruits.

Pawpaws are very nutritious fruits. They are high in vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper, and manganese. They are a good source of potassium and several essential amino acids, and they also contain significant amounts of riboflavin, niacin, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc. Pawpaws contain these nutrients in amounts that are generally about the same as or greater than those found in bananas, apples, or oranges.

In comparison with banana, apple, and orange, pawpaws have a higher protein and fat content. Banana exceeds pawpaw in food energy and carbohydrate content. There is little difference among these fruits in dietary fiber content. Pawpaw is most similar to banana in overall composition. Apple is especially low in protein, orange is low in fat, and both are lower than pawpaw or banana in food energy. See Table 2 and Table 3 for details.

Pawpaw has three times as much vitamin C as apple, twice as much as banana, and one third as much as orange. Pawpaw has six times as much riboflavin as apple, and twice as much as orange. Niacin content of pawpaw is twice as high as banana, fourteen times as high as apple, and four times as high as orange. See Table 2 and Table 3 for details.

Pawpaw and banana are both high in potassium, having about twice as much as orange and three times as much as apple. Pawpaw has one and a half times as much calcium as orange, and about ten times as much as banana or apple. Pawpaw has two to seven times as much phosphorus, four to twenty times as much magnesium, twenty to seventy times as much iron, five to twenty times as much zinc, five to twelve times as much copper, and sixteen to one hundred times as much manganese, as do banana, apple, or orange. See Table 2 and Table 3 for details. Sodium content has not yet been determined.

Amino acids
The protein in pawpaw contains all of the essential amino acids. Pawpaw exceeds apple in all of the essential amino acids, and it exceeds or equals banana and orange in most of them. See Table 2 and Table 3 for details.

The profile of fatty acids in pawpaw is preferable to that in banana. Pawpaw has 32% saturated, 40% monounsaturated, and 28% polyunsaturated fatty acids. Banana has 52% saturated, 15% monounsaturated, and 34% polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Table 1. Commercially Available Named Pawpaw Cultivars in the United States a
Cultivar Origin Type Selector, Year
Davis Illinois Chance seedling Corwin Davis, 1959
Ford Amend Unknown Chance seedling Ford Amend, 1950
G-2 Unknown G.A. Zimmerman seed John W. McKay, 1942
Glaser Indiana Chance seedling P. Glaser, date unknown
Kirsten Pennsylvania Hybrid of Taytwo and Overleese Tom Mansell, date unknown
Little Rosie Indiana Chance seedling P. Glaser, date unknown
M-1 Unknown Seedling from G-2 John W. McKay, 1948
Mango Georgia Chance seedling Major C. Collins, 1970
Mary Foos Johnson Kansas Chance seedling Milo Gibson, date unknown
Mason/WLW Ohio Chance seedling Ernest J. Downing, 1938
Middletown Ohio Chance seedling Ernest J. Downing, 1915
Mitchell Illinois Chance seedling Joseph W. Hickman, 1979
NC-1 Ontario Hybrid of Davis and Overleese R. Douglas Campbell, 1976
Overleese Indiana Chance seedling W.B. Ward, 1950
PA-Golden Unknown George Slate seed John Gordon, date unknown
Prolific Michigan Chance seedling Corwin Davis, 1980
Rebecca's Gold Unknown Corwin Davis seed J.M. Riley, 1974
SAA-Overleese New York Overleese seed John Gordon, 1982
SAA-Zimmerman New York G.A. Zimmerman seed John Gordon, 1982
Silver Creek Illinois Chance seedling K. Schubert, date unknown
Sunflower b Kansas Chance seedling Milo Gibson, 1970
Sweet Alice West Virginia Chance seedling Homer Jacobs, 1934
Taylor Michigan Chance seedling Corwin Davis, 1968
Taytwo Michigan Chance seedling Corwin Davis, 1968
Wells Indiana Chance seedling David K. Wells, 1990
Wilson Kentucky Chance seedling John V. Creech, 1985
Zimmerman Unknown G.A. Zimmerman seed George Slate, date unknown

a. More than 50 commercial nurseries market pawpaw seeds or trees in the U.S. For persons interested in high quality fruit production, we recommend purchasing container-grown trees grafted to a named cultivar. Two or more unrelated trees should be planted to ensure adequate cross-pollination. Regional adaptability will vary for each cultivar.
Return to Table 1
b. Some persons have reported this cultivar to be self-fruitful. Return to Sunflower

Table 2. Nutritional Comparison of Pawpaw with Other Fruits a

Units Pawpaw Banana Apple Orange
Food Energy Calories 80 92 59 47
Protein grams 1.2 1.03 0.19 0.94
Total Fat grams 1.2 0.48 0.36 0.12
Carbohydrate grams 18.8 23.4 15.25 11.75
Dietary Fiber grams 2.6 2.4 2.7 2.4
Vitamin A RE b 8.6 8 5 21
Vitamin A IU c 87 81 53 205
Vitamin C milligrams 18.3 9.1 5.7 53.2
Vitamin A milligrams 0.01 0.045 0.017 0.087
Riboflavin milligrams 0.09 0.1 0.014 0.04
Niacin milligrams 1.1 0.54 0.077 0.282
Potassium milligrams 345 396 115 181
Calcium milligrams 63 6 7 40
Phosphorus milligrams 47 20 7 14
Magnesium milligrams 113 29 5 10
Iron milligrams 7 0.31 0.18 0.1
Zinc milligrams 0.9 0.16 0.04 0.07
Copper milligrams 0.5 0.104 0.041 0.045
Manganese milligrams 2.6 0.152 0.045 0.025
Essential amino acids
Histidine milligrams 21 81 3 18
Isoleucine milligrams 70 33 8 25
Leucine milligrams 81 71 12 23
Lysine milligrams 60 48 12 47
Methionine milligrams 15 11 2 20
Cystine milligrams 4 17 3 10
Phenylalanine milligrams 51 38 5 31
Tyrosine milligrams 25 24 4 16
Threonine milligrams 46 34 7 15
Tryptophan milligrams 9 12 2 9
Valine milligrams 58 47 9 40

a. Mean value per 100 grams edible portion. Pawpaw analysis was done on pulp with skin, although the skin is not considered edible. Probably much of the dietary fiber, and possibly some of the fat, would be thrown away with the skin. Number in bold face represents the highest value for each component. Return to Table 2
b. Retinol Equivalents - these units are used in the most recent National Research Council Recommended Dietary Allowances table (1989). Return to Vitamins
c. International Units - these units are still seen on many labels. Return to Vitamins

Table 3. Portion of Daily Needs Provided by Pawpaw in Comparison with Other Fruits a


Pawpaw Banana Apple Orange
Food Energy b 4.0 4.6 3.0 2.4
Protein b 2.4 2.1 0.4 1.9
Total Fat b 1.8 0.7 0.6 0.2
Carbohydrate b 6.3 7.8 5.1 3.9
Dietary Fiber b 10.4 9.6 10.8 9.6
Vitamin A c 1.0 0.9 0.6 2.3
Vitamin C c 30.5 15.2 9.5 88.7
Thiamin c 0.8 3.5 1.3 6.7
Riboflavin c 6.0 6.7 0.9 2.7
Niacin c 6.5 3.2 0.5 1.7
Potassium b 9.9 11.3 3.3 5.2
Calcium c 7.9 0.8 0.9 5.0
Phosphorus c 5.9 2.5 0.9 1.8
Magnesium c 35.9 9.2 1.6 3.2
Iron c 56 2.5 1.4 0.8
Zinc c 6.7 1.2 0.3 0.5
Copper d 22.2 4.6 1.8 2.0
Manganese d 74.3 4.3 1.3 0.7
Essential amino acids
Histidine e 3.5 13.5 0.5 3.0
Isoleucine e 11.6 5.5 1.3 4.2
Leucine e 9.6 8.5 1.4 2.7
Lysine e 8.4 6.7 1.7 6.5
plus Cystine e 2.4 3.6 0.6 3.8
plus Tyrosine e 9 7.4 1.1 5.6
Threonine e 10.8 8.1 1.7 3.6
Tryptophan e 4.3 5.7 1.0 4.3
Valine e 9.7 7.8 1.5 6.7

a. Percentage of daily nutritional need per 100 gram serving. Number in bold face represents highest value for each component. Return to Table 3
b. Percentage of Daily Reference Value, based on a diet of 2,000 Calories a day for adults. Return to Composition
c. Percentage of the 1989 NAS-NRC Recommended Dietary Allowance, average value for women and men ages 25-50. Return to Vitamins | Return to Minerals
d. Percentage of the Estimated Safe and Adequate Daily Dietary Intake, average value for adults. Return to Minerals
e. Percentage of the estimated amino acid requirement for a 60 kg (130 lb) adult. Return to Amino Acids

National Research Council Food and Nutrition Board, 1989. Recommended Dietary Allowances, 10th edition. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
Kurtzweil, Paula, 1991. ‘Daily Values’ Encourage Healthy Diet.
Peterson, R. Neal, John P. Cherry, and Joseph G. Simmons, 1982. Composition of Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) Fruit. Ann. Rpt. N. Nut Growers Assoc. 77:97-106.
Full USDA Nutrient Database listings.

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Pawpaw Page


Jones, Snake C. and Layne, Desmond R. "Pawpaw Description and Nutritional Information." Pawpaw Research Project, Community Research Service, Atwood Research Facility, Frankfort, KY 40601-2355. Updated 9 Jan. 2009. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.

Published 2013 LR. Last update 4 Apr. 2015 LR
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