What Is A Pawpaw?: Festival Gives Taste Of Unusual Fruit

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Every September in a small community in Southeast Ohio, residents gather to celebrate the pawpaw. So have you ever heard of the pawpaw? If not, don’t worry – you certainly aren’t the only one.

So, what exactly is a pawpaw? This fruit is often described as a cross between a banana and a mango, with a creamy custard-like consistency. The sweet flavor tastes like a tropical fruit – yet it is native to the Eastern United States. In fact, the pawpaw has been around for a long time – Lewis and Clark ate the fruit on their travels and it was a favorite fruit of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

This great NPR article, talks about the America’s forgotten fruit and some of the reasons you don’t find it in the grocery store.

The Ohio Pawpaw Festival celebrates this native fruit and gives people a chance to taste it. The festival takes place September 13 – 15 at Lake Snowden in Albany, Ohio, and gives the community interesting dishes, along with providing entertainment and arts and crafts vendors.

Do you remember the scene in Forest Gump where Bubba talks about all the ways you can have shrimp? At the Ohio Pawpaw Festival you’ll find the fruit in about every way imaginable. Every vendor is required to have at least one pawpaw item, but many go out of their way to incorporate the fruit into all types of foods.

To name a few foods you’ll find (in Bubba style): you’ll have barbecued ribs, pork and brisket with special pawpaw barbecue sauce; dipping sauces and glazes for chicken satay; pawpaw stir-fried noodles and veggies and chili; pawpaw smoothies, shaved ice and slushes; pawpaw cookies, ice cream, cakes and cheesecakes along with pawpaw marzipan, fudge and chocolates.

The festival will even host a beer garden, with (of course!) pawpaw beers! Several independent breweries will be on tap, with their versions of brews like Pawpaw Pale Ale and Pawpaw Wheat. There’ll even be non-alcoholic pawpaw soda. Here’s a list of the brews you’ll find.

So, you may be wondering if the pawpaw is America’s forgotten fruit, where do the vendors get the product?

While some of the vendors will pick their own pawpaws and process them into food, many will get theirs from Integration Acres, a farm located in Albany, Ohio, that, according to their website, brings ‘pawpaws to the people.’

Owners Chris Chmiel and Michelle Gorman run the farm that helps to keep the native fruit from distinction. The shelf life of pawpaws is short, and the they work to can and freeze the fruit so people can enjoy the fruit all year long.

Not only will you find great foods at the festival, you’ll find a lot of educational sessions. There are several discussions about how you could grow your own pawpaws and recipe sessions on the best way to cook them. Click here to find a complete schedule.