We’re nearing the end of fruit season in Michigan -- the apples are coming in hot (in some cases, literally hot, as in hot cider), but there’s another fruit that is native to Michigan that is in peak season. But you better hurry up and find it.
Paw paw -- the namesake of Paw Paw, Michigan -- is a fruit native to Southern Michigan and across the southeastern U.S., and it’s in peak season right now. Paw paw trees are the largest edible fruit trees native to North America.
Paw paws are soft, sort of like a banana if a banana needed to be scooped out of a shell. They’re sweet, with a custard-like flavor, and they’re usually eaten raw -- you can take them right off the tree. They’re often used in desserts. It’s a tropical fruit that grows in Michigan!
So if they’re so cool, why don’t we see much of them at the grocery store? It’s because paw paws are highly perishable -- they can’t really travel and be distributed because they spoil fast after being harvested.
Foragers can find paw paws on paw paw trees, if you can locate one, or maybe at your local farmers market -- but you won’t see them in your local produce section. If you do get your hands on one, you should eat it within a couple of days. If you find an unripe paw paw, you can refrigerate them for two weeks and then let them ripen on the counter.
Happy paw paw season! (h/t to my colleague Brandon Crawford for enlightening me on paw paws!)