From Peterson Pawpaws Website
by Neal Peterson

The History of Peterson Pawpaws

Neal Peterson

September 1976 — It was 38 years ago, and I was a grad student at West Virginia University, that I tasted my first pawpaw on the banks of the Monongahela River — a life-changing revelation! Like Saul on the road to Damascus. What an epiphany of flavor. Suddenly I found myself imagining pawpaws as a new fruit crop on par with peaches and pears.

Since then I have been devoted to the cause of bringing the pawpaw — this Asimina triloba that is unique to eastern North America, our largest native edible fruit — out of the woods and into the realm of agriculture, into our backyards, onto our dinner tables, and into our local farmers markets. And ultimately, someday, into the grocery stores.

It took me several years to track down the historic pawpaw collections of the early 20th century. I selected the best pawpaws as a source of seed, and then used old-fashioned breeding methods as practiced by farmers for thousands of years. Plant the seeds; grow them to maturity; have a clear objective. In my case the first objective was fewer seeds, because the seediness of wild fruit is a turnoff to customers if you plan to put pawpaw fruit in the market. My other objectives were flavor, size, and yields.

Think of the wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) : Its flavor is incredible – so sweet – so intense – but their fruit is only thimble-sized and their yields are modest. Strawberries could not become a real crop until breeding had improved their size and productivity. The same is true of pawpaws: selecting for overall excellence, retaining the flavor but reducing the quantity of seeds and enhancing the fruit size. That is what I have done.

Comparison of wild (left) vs Peterson variety (right)
Comparison of wild (left) vs Peterson variety (right)
We still have a ways to go to bring pawpaws into our homes, but thankfully I have accomplished a great deal already. In 1998, I released to the public six fabulous varieties of pawpaw (shown below), 6 out of 1500 seedling trees I had examined over an 18-year period. These Peterson Pawpaw varieties are now available in the US from seven nurseries.

Many gardeners around the world have begun to take note of our pawpaw — and covet it. It may seem ordinary to us here but they value it as an exotic luxury fruit. They compare it to the tropical annona fruits, such as the cherimoya, sweetsop, soursop, and custard apple. The pawpaw (Asimina triloba) their northern cousin, shares great similarities in flavor and texture. But it is vastly hardier. No other member of the Custard Apple Family (Annonaceae) can withstand freezing winter temperatures while pawpaw is hardy to -20F (-30C).

Europeans have approached me for years. They have read about me and my varieties on blogs and in horticultural news; they say my pawpaw varieties are the best in the world. They want my varieties. But I always decline. The requirements of international trade are very expensive. Bare-root shipment of trees is required — a sure way of killing a pawpaw. The proper method of supplying quality pawpaws abroad is through nursery production in the countries of interest.

Of course, people in foreign lands are already growing pawpaws from seed, but pawpaws don’t come true to seed and hence, on the whole, resulting seedlings will be ordinary — with seedy fruit, average flavor, and mediocre size. To propagate a named variety one must do grafting.

With all modesty aside, my varieties are the best; they deserve to be in Europe and Japan where they will do the most good to popularize the fruit. With your help, we at Peterson Pawpaws can make our pawpaws part of farming and eating around the world.

Closing Thoughts

Other North American species have been brought in from the wild. The blueberry was domesticated only recently in the 1920's and 1930's in New Jersey; and the pecan only about 50 years before that. And now the blueberry is recognized to be so healthful and has become so popular. The pawpaw is as nutritious as the blueberry, and contains many antioxidants. And in addition, the pawpaw is little bothered by insect pests or diseases (unlike apple for instance). It is well-suited to organic agriculture.

In any case, my work will go on as I pursue breeding and hybridization. Potent pawpaw possibilities continue to inspire me, and keep me going all these many years in my quixotic scientific endeavor that has been a personal calling. But by no means have I labored alone. I have had plenty of help both physical, mental and moral along the way — and you friends know who you are, and I thank you! — but it has required great patience and stick-to-itiveness.
To Advance My Work Further I Need Your Help!


Global Opportunities for Peterson Pawpaws

Two prominent nurseries, one in Europe and the other in Japan, in response to growing public demand for pawpaws, have done their research and concluded that Peterson Pawpaw's six varieties are the best in the world! They are ready to make them widely available. License contracts have been agreed upon. Propagating wood has been sent. Just one final hurdle remains …

Trademarks: The Last Hurdle

International trademarks are required in order to secure these contracts in the EU and Japan. Without protected names for the plants, anyone can grow and sell any old pawpaws under my names. Selling inferior products is not the way to popularize a new exotic fruit, bringing it into agriculture and into homes and restaurants. In fact it is a good way to kill a fledgling market. The trademark process is expensive. I need $20,000 to cover all expenses. The two biggest expenses are governmental fees and the related attorney fees. The next expense is reward fulfillment. Finally, we must allow for the standard commissions of Kickstarter and Amazon.

In addition to giving, the very best way to help is to spread the word to all your friends, especially if they love fruit and American history ... and who doesn't love fruit! We will be deeply grateful if you pass this on via email, Facebook, Twitter. Help bring the best pawpaws to the rest of world.

The Deal with Trademarks

Our Object: To make Peterson Pawpaw varieties widely available abroad in Japan and Europe through license agreements with nurseries in those countries, and trademarks therein. And available later in Chile, New Zealand, and other countries with temperate climates where pawpaws can grow.

Pawpaws have become a hot item in Europe and Japan where they are experienced as an exotic luxury. The two nurseries I mentioned have done their research, and concluded that my varieties are the best. They want them! We have reached agreement on licensing contracts, but face one last expensive hurdle, trademarks.

The nurseries require Registered Trademarks in their respective countries. In the absence of trademarks they will cancel the contracts. They need these trademarks, naturally, for their marketing campaigns. No serious company will engage in production without planning for marketing. And trademarks are the basic means of securing market protection against unscrupulous competitors.

In the absence of trademarks, competing nurseries may sell pawpaws under Peterson Pawpaw variety names. They will be selling counterfeits. The visibility and excellent reputation of my varieties are incentive for them to do so. But of course, this unethical behavior will harm licensed nurseries as they lose sales, and will harm the customers who buy inferior products.
These varieties are my creation and belong to me. Hence it is my responsibility to apply for the trademarks at my expense. I own US trademarks but these do not cover commerce beyond US borders. Unfortunately, foreign trademarks are very expensive, much more expensive than US trademarks.

I turn to you generous Kickstarter folks for help. I need $20,000 to cover all expenses. The two big expenses are governmental fees and the related attorney fees. (NOTE: I have already retained reputable attorneys in the Netherlands and Japan.) The next two expenses are reward fulfillment and overhead. Finally, we must allow for the standard commissions of Kickstarter.


The very best way to help, in addition to giving, is to SPREAD THE WORD to all your friends and family, especially if they love fruit and American history ... and who doesn't love fruit! We will be deeply grateful if you pass this on via email, Facebook, Twitter. Help bring the best pawpaws to the rest of world.


Pawpaws for World Peace

February 18, 2015
Great news! We broke the sound barrier!

Dear Friends of Pawpaws,

That means: We reached our goal of $20,000. All of you who helped us deserve praise for this. We couldn't have done it without you. You should know that not every Kickstarter project succeeds. It was you, our backers, who did it.

Eight more days exist before the final deadline of Feb.25. Our project is still open for receiving pledges. There are expenses for my research that I didn't list, and didn't add into the goal ... because the higher one sets the goal, the greater the risk of not reaching it at all. (And with Kickstarter if you don't reach the goal you get nothing.)

So please pass the word along to friends and family. You never know who might take an interest in pawpaws. Continued giving will enable me to meet various expenses, most importantly to pay my three team workers for their steadfast assistance that started back in October. You can see the faces and bios at the bottom of my project page.

Best wishes, Neal

Success Success!

February 25, 2015
Successfully raised $22,357 USD with 248 backers


Back to
Neal Peterson's Breeding Program
Pawpaw Page


Peterson, Neal. "The History of Peterson Pawpaw." Web. 4 Apr. 2015.

Published 6 Apr. 2015 LR. Last update 9 Apr. 2015 LR
© 2013 -
about credits disclaimer sitemap updates