It’s pawpaw season! Pawpaws (not to be confused with papayas which are sometimes called pawpaws) are a large fruit found in forests throughout the eastern US. The range of the pawpaw extends as far north as southern Michigan and the southern portion of Ontario in Canada and as far south as eastern Texas. The range also extends as far west as southeastern Nebraska and east to the coasts of Virgina and North Carolina. The entire state of Ohio is within the pawpaw’s native range. In 2009, it was named Ohio’s state native fruit!
Pawpaws come from the pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba), which is a small understory tree with large, tropical looking leaves. Pawpaw trees grow in clonal patches so often if you spot one tree, many more will be nearby (which makes foraging for pawpaws much easier!). The pawpaw is a very soft fruit, much softer than a banana, with a tropical flavor. Wild pawpaws differ in flavor, texture and size, but most people think they taste a combination of banana, mango, pineapple, orange or vanilla. The flavor is definitely unique and worth seeking out!
If you get your hands on some pawpaws, there are several things you can do with them. You can eat them fresh (in the woods where you found them is the most fun), you can add them to a recipe or you can process and freeze the pulp for later. Pawpaws have an extremely short shelf life, so you want to act quickly. On the counter a pawpaw should last one to three days, put your pawpaws in the refrigerator and they should keep for about a week.
I decided to make a lassi out of my pawpaws. A lassi is a yogurt-based drink, popular in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Lassis are usually either sweet or savory. Sweet lassis are flavored with fruit, sugar or rosewater and savory lassis are made with spices like roasted cumin, turmeric or saffron.
I used pawpaws and some dried spice bush berries that I bought at the Ohio Pawpaw Festival from Integration Acres. Integration Acres sells pawpaws, spicebush berries, mushrooms, ramps and other forest crops. You can read more about the Ohio Pawpaw Festival and Integration Acres in my blog post reviewing the 16th annual pawpaw fest here.
This lassi recipe is full of local Ohio ingredients. In addition to the Ohio grown pawpaws and spicebush berries, I also used locally produced yogurt from Snowville Creamery. Snowville is located in Pomery, Ohio, in Meigs County. They get their milk from eleven different dairy farms in southeastern Ohio. The cows are pasture grazed and the milk is pasteurized at a low temperature and not homogenized (the cream in their milk naturally rises to the top, so shake well before enjoying!).
Snowville makes whole milk, 2% reduced fat milk, fat free milk and chocolate milk. The chocolate milk is heaven in a cup, I love it! Snowville also makes whipping cream, half & half, crème fraîche and several different yogurts (including dessert yogurts: lemon-ginger and coffee-cardamom). For this lassi I used Snowville’s vanilla yogurt, though I suspect the lemon-ginger yogurt would also make a delicious lassi.
Processing pawpaws is a messy job. Imagine you have a really ripe, soft, banana, so ripe the skin is completely brown. That’s about how soft a ripe pawpaw will be. Mushy soft. The only different between a really really ripe banana and a ripe pawpaw is that a pawpaw is full of large brown seeds. Large pawpaws will usually have two rows of seeds. Alan Bergo, the chef and blogger behind Forager Chef, has made a great video showing you how to process, or clean a pawpaw:
You can see from the video that each pawpaw is full of seeds. It takes a lot of pawpaws to get a decent amount of pawpaw pulp! Chef Bergo also has some delicious looking recipes for pawpaw desserts: pawpaw pudding and pawpaw cheesecake. I can’t wait to try them!
After I processed my six pawpaws, I pureed and measured the pulp. I ended up with a half cup of pawpaw puree. Those seeds take up a lot of space! I cleaned off a few seeds so you can see what they look like. They’re about a half inch to an inch long and somewhat bean shaped. They’re NOT edible, so don’t try them! If you want to grow your own pawpaws, all you need to do is plant the leftover seeds!
Before pureeing all of my ingredients together, I ground the spicebush berries with a mortar and pestle. They smelled amazing! Similar to allspice, but a little lemony too. Another name for the dried spicebush berries is Appalachian Allspice.
Once your pawpaws and spicebush berries are prepared, this recipe is quick and easy to make. Put all ingredients in a blender and blend! Then enjoy your tangy, not too sweet, pawpaw-spicebush lassi and reminisce on all the things that make fall a wonderful and tasty season.
Makes 2 servings
- 1 1/2 cups vanilla Snowville Yogurt
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup pawpaw pulp, pureed
- 1/4 teaspoon ground dried spicebush berries
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Directions: Put all ingredients into a blender and blend! Enjoy cold.