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How to Grow (and Eat) a Pawpaw

Plant in fall or spring. Kentucky State University’s nursery list is a good place to start your search for young trees, if local plant stores don’t stock them. You can also find plants (and seeds and fruit) through Facebook fan clubs, Craigslist, Nextdoor and Etsy.

Ideally, plant in places with hot summers and cold winters, like United States Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 8. Kentucky State University keeps a list of when most common varieties ripen — at some point from August through October — and where they do best. You will need at least two varieties for the cross-pollination required for fruit.

Be patient. Growing pawpaws from seeds isn’t hard, but it does take at least seven years to get fruit. To plant pawpaw seeds, don’t let them dry out before you plant them. Seeds should be kept cold and moist for several months in order to germinate, in a process called stratification. (Here’s how to do it.)

Enjoy the fruits of your labor. Ripe pawpaws will be fully soft and speckled with black. The easiest way to eat one is to cut the ripe fruit in half across the middle, squeeze the flesh from the skin into your mouth, then spit out the seeds. Don’t eat the skin or seeds, which contain toxins. Many people also cook with ripe pawpaws, making bread, beer, ice cream or this pawpaw pudding from NYT Cooking.

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