Ripening Guide

Learn more about the many fruits of Toronto's Urban Orchard

Pawpaw

Pawpaws are a rare treat in Toronto! Not widely known, they are also called Kentucky bananas or custard apples. They are not commercially grown anywhere, and have a native range within eastern North America.

Pawpaws are green when ripe, but some varieties can lighten to a yellow colour. They are oval-shaped, and have a length of 3-6 inches when mature, which is similar in size to a small mango. When cut open pawpaws have two rows of brown lima bean-shaped seeds and the insides have a white to creamy yellow colour.

  • September
  • October

When they’re ready to pick: The fruit gives in to soft pressure, much like a peach. The fruit smells fragrant and tastes like a mix of mango, pineapple, and banana. When you cut into the fruit, it will have a custard-like texture and a yellow center.

When to submit a pick request: We’ll need some advance notice to schedule your pick, so please submit a fruit pick request 3-5 days before your fruit is ready. A good time to do this is when 1/3 to 2/3 of the fruit is ripe, as pawpaw trees ripen in stages. It can be difficult to tell when pawpaws are ready because they don’t have any overt visual cues. Give it a gentle squeeze and see if it’s soft. If they start to develop brown spots that means they are near being overripe.

Picking tips: To harvest pawpaws, gently pull on the top of the stem without breaking the skin of the fragile fruit. The less damage done to the fruit, the longer it will last.

Eating tips: Pawpaws need to be processed or eaten right away, as their shelf life is quite short. Cut the fruit in half and scoop out the insides with a spoon, like you would with a kiwi.

Storage tips: Pawpaws do not have a long shelf life and can go from ripe to rotten within a few days. Pawpaws give off a gas called ethylene that causes nearby fruits and vegetables to ripen more quickly, so keep this in mind when finding a place to store them. When the pawpaws start to develop brown spots or lighten in colour its time to eat them right away or put them in the fridge to extend their shelf life for a few more days. Make breads, pies, sorbet/ice cream, muffins, and drinks or eat it as is!

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