Fruit of the Week – Pawpaw

July 18, 2011 at 9:51 AM | Posted in baking, diabetes, diabetes friendly, Food, fruits, low calorie, low carb | Leave a comment
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Pawpaw (Asimina) is a genus of eight species of small trees or shrubs with large simple leaves and large fruit, native to eastern North America. The genus includes the widespread common pawpaw Asimina triloba, which bears the largest edible fruit indigenous to the continent. Pawpaws are native to 26 states of the U.S. and to Ontario in Canada. The common pawpaw is a patch-forming (clonal) understory tree found in well-drained, deep, fertile bottom-land and hilly upland habitat. Pawpaws are in the same plant family (Annonaceae) as the custard-apple, cherimoya, sweetsop, ylang-ylang and soursop; the genus is the only member of that family not confined to the tropics.

Pawpaws are shrubs or small trees, reaching heights of 2–12 m tall. The northern, cold-tolerant common pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is deciduous, while the southern species are often evergreen.

The leaves are alternate, obovate, entire, 20–35 cm long and 10–15 cm broad.

The fetid flowers of pawpaws are produced singly or in clusters of up to eight together; they are large, 4–6 cm across, perfect, with six sepals and petals (three large outer petals, three smaller inner petals). The petal color varies from white to purple or red-brown.

The fruit of the common pawpaw is a large edible berry, 5–16 cm long and 3–7 cm broad, weighing from 20–500 g, with numerous seeds; it is green when unripe, maturing to yellow or brown. It has a flavor somewhat similar to both banana and mango, varying significantly by cultivar, and has more protein than most fruits.

Wild-collected fruits of the common pawpaw (Asimina triloba) have long been a favorite treat throughout the tree’s extensive native range in eastern North America. Fresh pawpaw fruits are commonly eaten raw; however, the fruit do not store or ship well unless frozen. The fruit pulp is also often used locally in baked dessert recipes, with pawpaw often substituted in many banana-based recipes.

Pawpaws have never been cultivated on the scale of apples and peaches, but interest in pawpaw cultivation has increased in recent decades. However, only frozen fruit will store or ship well. Other methods of preservation include dehydration, production of jams or jellies, and pressure canning. The pawpaw is also gaining in popularity among backyard gardeners because of the tree’s distinctive growth habit, the appeal of its fresh fruit, and its relatively low maintenance needs once established. The common pawpaw is also of interest in ecological restoration plantings since this tree grows well in wet soil and has a strong tendency to form well-rooted colonial thickets.

Pawpaw  is rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A, and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which protects against diabetic retinopathy, a major diabetic complication. The most useful nutrients it has for diabetics are its potassium and soluble fibers.  Pawpaw is low in carbohydrates and glycemic index.

Pawpaw is also rich in beta-cryptoxanthin, which reduces the risk of lung and colon cancer.  This antioxidant also prevents atherosclerosis and heart disease – especially in people with diabetes – and reduces the risk for rheumatoid arthritis.

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