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Taste the Mid-Atlantic's tropical treat

Hawaii may be a pineapple paradise, but we're loyal to our own local tropical fruit: the pawpaw.

Resembling a big green pear or pear-shaped mango, the pawpaw is as sweet as a mango or banana, with a thick, custardy texture.

Long before apple orchards and peach groves overtook the Mid-Atlantic's fruit farms, pawpaw trees abounded. Unfortunately, because of their strange pollination process, pawpaws are nearly impossible to cultivate. The wild trees that do thrive here pop up randomly, with a ripening schedule that stumps most farmers.

Pawpaws ($4.50 a pint) are in season over the next two weeks, so get to the markets early and keep a keen eye out for them. If you land a pint, we recommend eating the creamy fruits raw, blending them into milkshakes, making ice cream or building a naturally sweet parfait.

For more inspiration, Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore scored fruit from a local forager and churned it into ice cream. Next week, Mitsitam will debut pawpaw pudding with sweet bean cake. Ashby Inn in Paris, which sources its fruit from a secret spot on the Appalachian Trail, plays with the fruit's similarity to bananas, serving chocolate-covered cheesecake bites with pawpaw soft-serve for its inspired take on a chocolate-dipped banana.

Welcome to the tropics.

Available at The Farm at Sunnyside at Dupont Circle Farmers' Market, 1500 20th St. NW, Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; or Falcon Ridge Farm stand at the Kensington Farmers' Market, 10417 Howard Ave., Kensington, Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon