PawPaw Ice Cream

November 29, 2009 at 8:57 pm 13 comments

Unripe pawpaws

Well, here’s a recipe that’s been waiting patiently in the draft pool for awhile now.   It’s a real winner though and deserves its moment in the spotlight, even if the season for pawpaws has come and gone back in the earlier days of autumn.  Pawpaws?  Is that a typo?  Nope, that’s the featured local – and highly unique – ingredient in today’s post. 

Ripe Pawpaws

Pawpaws (Asimina triloba) are the largest edible fruit (a berry to be precise) native to North America.  I foraged mine from a small grove in the woods that I happened to find thanks to the directions of a friend.  This fruit grows on small trees that are native to the Northeast, though with the disappearance of our natural woodlands with development, there aren’t so many around anymore.  The trees tend to spread about, forming groves with both mature trees and saplings, all of which are easily distinguished from the other trees in the woods by their enormous leaves that come in groups of threes (thus the “triloba” in its botanical name).   My mom knows an old song from when she was a girl about going picking in the pawpaw patch so I think this fruit was much more popular back in the day when there were plenty of rural areas still sustaining large numbers of native trees. 

Dishing it out

Ironically, the pawpaw today is once again in vogue, being touted as the next big thing in local fruit production.  A few passionate folks have even taken upon themselves the task of planting entire orchards of pawpaws.  This is a rather selfless act as these trees take nearly 20 years to mature and bear enough fruit to make them a viable commercial venture.  In other words, you’d best be young when you plant your pawpaw trees.   All joking aside, pawpaw trees are beautiful in the home landscape and should be consider if you are looking to plant a native tree in your yard or even city parks.

Scoop and spoons

The fruit is well worth the wait. It’s completely unexpected in its flavor and texture, both of which are quite tropical.  The texture, when ripe, is nearly identical to that of a banana.  The flavor is a good deal harder to pin down with an easy comparison.  Some people claim they taste like mangos, others like pineapple, still others think pawpaws taste like any old ripe banana.  I can only say that in my opinion, they are delicious, sweet and “tropical”, but not really tasting like any of those other fruits. 

Pawpaw Ice Cream

The oblong fat green fruit begins ripening in mid September and is best shaken off the tree a little under ripe and set on a kitchen counter to soften.  If you let the fruit ripen on the tree, it’ll fall to the ground and be immediately gobbled up by any and all woodland critters who are smart enough to realize that pawpaws are a real delicacy.   Once harvested, pawpaws should be left on the countertop to ripen for just a few days until they get brown and squishy.  That’s right…brown and squishy!  That’s when the sugars really develop and the softer texture makes it easier to push out the large seeds from the flesh. Be careful though, they have a very short “shelf life” (one of the reasons they aren’t more common) and can quickly go past their prime.

Double Scoop

Now, I’m sure I’ve piqued your interest.  I wish that I could tell you all right where to go to get some of this delicious fruit next September.  Sadly, I can’t.  There’s a slim chance you’ll find it at a farmers market.  There’s an even better chance that if you have some woodland near you that hasn’t been disturbed in many years that you can forage a basketful for yourself.   The demand is certainly increasing for them and I hope that, like the tasty ground cherry, they’ll show up more and more with the new interest in locally grown and unusual fruit. 

So, should you get your hands on some pawpaws next year, I’d highly recommend using them in this luscious ice cream! In general though, you can treat pawpaws like bananas since there aren’t a lot of pawpaw specific recipes out there.  Have you ever tasted a pawpaw?  If so, what did you think it tasted like? 

PawPaw Ice Cream
A Straight from the Farm Original

1 C. sugar
1 C. whole milk (raw if possible)
1/4 t. salt
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
3 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 C. pawpaw pulp*
1 T. lemon juice
2 C. heavy cream

*This recipe is really two distinct steps – the custard and then the rest of it –  so don’t mash your pawpaws until you have your chilled custard ready to churn or else they’ll get a bit icky the way mooshed bananas do if left to sit for very long.

Combine sugar, milk, salt, and scraped vanilla bean and pods in a saucepan over low heat.  Stir until the mixture just begins to steam and simmer.   Place the egg yolks into a small bowl. Gradually stir in about 1/2 cup of the hot liquid to temper the eggs and return everything to the saucepan. Heat until thickened, about 5 minutes, but be careful not to boil. Remove from the heat, and pour into a chilled bowl and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.  

Using a slotted spoon, fish out the vanilla pods from the chilled custard.  Stir in the pawpaw pulp and lemon juice.  Whip the heavy cream until it forms soft peaks and gently fold into the custard mixture. Pour into an ice cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. 
When ice cream is done churning, scoop out into a container with a lid and place in freezer to firm up, about 3-4 hours.

(makes 1 quart)

Entry filed under: Recipes, Sweet Treats. Tags: , , , , .

Deconstructed Pear Salad Quince Jam

13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Food-Fitness-FreshAir  |  November 30, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    I loveeee paw-paws! I feel like they have a sort of creamy, earthy banana-like taste…I don’t know, it’s hard to put a label on it, but they are good! I wish they were grown commercially. I only get a few a year when I happen to stumble upon them on my random hikes. They bruise pretty easily, which I’m assuming might be the reason they aren’t so well known?

    Great post!

  • 2. alana  |  December 1, 2009 at 7:37 am

    A new fruit! Now I’m searching…

  • 3. Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener  |  December 2, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    oh, yes I love paw-paw, but i’ve got the beat the wild beast to get them (sadly not this year, as a late frost got a lot of the flowers). I did plant 2 trees last year – expecting to see my first fruit in about 7 years!

    The flowers in the spring are “weird” as flowers go. See a photo here on post I wrote last year

    taste? reminds me of one of its cousin, the cherimoya – a floral taste of ripe mango, very raipe banana and hint of guava and pineapple.

    Don’t tell me if you pick now now, in late november, though?

    • 4. Jennie  |  December 2, 2009 at 10:12 pm

      Thanks for the great comment, Sylvie! No, I didn’t pick these now. I’d made this ice cream back in September and just now got around to posting it on the blog. I wish paw paw season lasted much longer!

  • 5. Michael  |  January 4, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Wow! Thanks for the introduction to this fruit. I’ve never even heard of it. With their short shelf life, it would probably be impossible to find them in the Seattle area if they come out of the Northeast. Sad… But you never know some could find their way to the Market… I’ll have to check next September.

  • 6. Daniel  |  March 1, 2010 at 3:07 am

    “Now when you pick a pawpaw
    Or a prickly pear
    And you prick a raw paw
    Next time beware
    Don’t pick the prickly pear by the paw
    When you pick a pear
    Try to use the claw
    But you don’t need to use the claw
    When you pick a pear of the big pawpaw”

    words to live by, from the jungle book.

    • 7. Jennie  |  March 1, 2010 at 8:04 am

      Really? That’s from The Jungle Book? Oh my, that’s a hoot!! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • 8. Fishercat  |  October 4, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    We planted our 4 paw paw trees about 6 years ago and this is the first year we have had enough fruit to try cooking with them. The nice thing about paw paws is that (at least in MA) they don’t get a lot of pests so they are no work once you plant them. I just tried this recipe. It was great! In fact it is the best ice cream I have ever made with my ice cream maker. The ice cream is really rich. If you don’t have paw paws I bet you could substitute bananas.

    Thank you for the recipe!

  • 9. Steven Gubkin  |  December 3, 2010 at 11:21 am

    There are actually grafted cultivars of pawpaws around. For example you can order them here:

    I would really recommend the Susquehanna pawpaws, developed by Neal Peterson. They are very tasty (they have a strong “pawpaw” flavor if you know what I mean), and have few seeds. Kentucky State University also has a program to develop the pawpaw as a commercial crop, and they just released their first cultivar KSU-Atwood this year. I haven’t tried that one yet, but I ordered 2 trees. It is supposed to bear 150 fruit a year (!), and have a mellow “mango” taste.

    The grafted cultivars fruit much sooner: you can expect fruit in a couple of years!

    p.s. pawpaw ice cream is some of the tasty stuff on Earth. If you head over to the Ohio Pawpaw festival next September, Snowville creamery always has free samples of the stuff!

  • 10. marco  |  August 25, 2011 at 5:10 am

    marco bozino ,
    Biella (north Italy)

  • […] not to love? And speaking of loves, check out this awesome Paw Paw ice cream recipe we found at! Perfect for the last sunny (or if you are in Melbourne – super hot) days of […]

  • 12. Kurt  |  July 21, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    Pawpaws, like morel mushrooms, are one of the finer things in life that the affluent have more trouble getting than the common man does. I have full access to half a dozen big pawpaw patches, and keep them a guarded secret like the good mushroom patches or the secret fishing hole.

  • 13. Watch NBA Games  |  January 4, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    I was recommended this web site by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my problem.
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