Pawpaw – When to Pick

Q: My son-in-law gave my three daughters & me pawpaw trees after my husband passed away. (The grandkids always called him Paw-Paw) Mine was the only one that lived but I don’t know what to do with the pawpaws. When are they ready to pick?

A:Pawpaw fruit usually occurs in branch-end clusters that resemble a loose hand of bananas. They don’t all ripen at the same time. Individual fruits ripen through about a two-week period. The best indication of ripeness is when the flesh yields slightly when pressed, much like a ripe peach. Pawpaws usually ripen from mid-August into October.

The soft flesh combined with a rich, fruity fragrance signals ripeness. Additionally, some fruits may turn yellowish-green. Ripe pawpaws have a 2-day shelf life before becoming overripe, when they develop brown blotches.

Ripe pawpaws can be refrigerated so fruits that would have lasted only two days will last four or five days. Fruits that are not quite ripe can be picked, refrigerated for about two weeks and then put at room temperature to complete ripening. If the fruit are picked too early, they don’t ripen successfully.