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 Pawpaw Trees, Dietary Nutritional Value

The following information is from Kentucky State University; one of the leading experts in Pawpaw research. We had no involvement in this project, all credit belongs to Kentucky State University.

Pawpaw Description and Nutritional Information

Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension Program

Pawpaw Research Project, Community Research Service, Atwood Research Facility, Frankfort, KY 40601-2355

From The KYSU Extension Bulletin, “Cooking with Pawpaws”

by Snake C. Jones and Desmond R. Layne

Pawpaw Description

The pawpaw is the largest edible fruit that is native to the United States. Pawpaws are indigenous to 26 states in the U.S., in a range extending from northern Florida to southern Ontario and as far west as eastern Nebraska. They have provided delicious and nutritious food for Native Americans, European explorers and settlers, and wild animals. They are still being enjoyed in modern America, chiefly in rural areas. There are 27 varieties (Table 1) currently available from more than 50 commercial nurseries in the U.S.

Most enthusiasts agree that the best way to enjoy pawpaws is to eat them raw, outdoors, picked from the tree when they are perfectly ripe. But there are also numerous ways to use them in the kitchen and extend the enjoyment of their tropical flavour beyond the end of the harvest season.

The unique flavour of the fruit resembles a blend of various tropical flavours, including banana, pineapple, and mango. The flavour and custard-like texture make pawpaws a good substitute for bananas in almost any recipe. The common names, ‘poor man’s banana,’ ‘American custard apple,’ and ‘Kentucky banana’ reflect these qualities.

Pawpaw’s beautiful, maroon coloured flowers appear in the spring, and the clusters of fruit ripen in the fall. The Kentucky harvest season is from late August to mid-October. Ripe pawpaw fruits are easily picked, yielding to a gentle tug. Shaking the tree will make them fall off. (If you try this, don’t stand under the fruit clusters, and don’t say we didn’t warn you.) Ripeness can also be gauged by squeezing gently, as you would judge a peach. The flesh should be soft, and the fruit should have a strong, pleasant aroma. The skin colour of ripe fruit on the tree ranges from green to yellow, and dark flecks may appear, as on bananas. The skin of picked or fallen fruit may darken to brown or black.

Fully ripe pawpaws last only a few days at room temperature, but may be kept for a week in the refrigerator. If fruit is refrigerated before it is fully ripe, it can be kept for up to three weeks, and can then be allowed to finish ripening at room temperature. Ripe pawpaw flesh, with skin and seeds removed, can be pureed and frozen for later use. Some people even freeze whole fruits.

Pawpaws are very nutritious fruits. They are high in vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper, and manganese. They are a good source of potassium and several essential amino acids, and they also contain significant amounts of riboflavin, niacin, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc. Pawpaws contain these nutrients in amounts that are generally about the same as or greater than those found in bananas, apples, or oranges.

Nutritional Information


In comparison with banana, apple, and orange, pawpaws have a higher protein and fat content. Banana exceeds pawpaw in food energy and carbohydrate content. There is little difference among these fruits in dietary fiber content. Pawpaw is most similar to banana in overall composition. Apple is especially low in protein, orange is low in fat, and both are lower than pawpaw or banana in food energy. See Table 2 and Table 3 for details.


Pawpaw has three times as much vitamin C as apple, twice as much as banana, and one third as much as orange. Pawpaw has six times as much riboflavin as apple, and twice as much as orange. Niacin content of pawpaw is twice as high as banana, fourteen times as high as apple, and four times as high as orange. See Table 2 and Table 3 for details.


Pawpaw and banana are both high in potassium, having about twice as much as orange and three times as much as apple. Pawpaw has one and a half times as much calcium as orange, and about ten times as much as banana or apple. Pawpaw has two to seven times as much phosphorus, four to twenty times as much magnesium, twenty to seventy times as much iron, five to twenty times as much zinc, five to twelve times as much copper, and sixteen to one hundred times as much manganese, as do banana, apple, or orange. See Table 2 and Table 3 for details. Sodium content has not yet been determined.

Amino acids

The protein in pawpaw contains all of the essential amino acids. Pawpaw exceeds apple in all of the essential amino acids, and it exceeds or equals banana and orange in most of them. See Table 2 and Table 3 for details.


The profile of fatty acids in pawpaw is preferable to that in banana. Pawpaw has 32% saturated, 40% monounsaturated, and 28% polyunsaturated fatty acids. Banana has 52% saturated, 15% monounsaturated, and 34% polyunsaturated fatty acids.




Ford Amend




Little Rosie


Mary Foos Johnson








Rebecca's Gold



Silver Creek


Sweet Alice























New York

New York



West Virginia







Chance Seedling

Chance Seedling

G.A. Zimmerman Seed

Chance Seedling

Hybrid Taytwo / Overleese

Chance Seedling

Chance Seedling

Chance Seedling

Chance Seedling

Chance Seedling

Chance Seedling

Hybrid of Davis and Overleese

Chance Seedling

George Slate Seed

Chance Seedling

Corwin Davis Seed

Overleese Seed

G.A. Zimmerman Seed

Chance Seedling

Chance Seedling

Chance Seedling

Chance Seedling

Chance Seedling

Chance Seedling

Chance Seedling

G.A. Zimmerman Seed


Corwin Davis, 1959

Ford Amend 1950

John W. McKay 1942

P. Glaser

Tom Mansell

P. Glaser

Major C. Collins 1970

Milo Gibson

Ernest J. Downing 1938

Ernest J. Downing 1915

Joseph W. Hickman 1979

R. Douglas Campbell 1976

W.B. Ward 1950

John Gordons 0.04

Corwin Davis 1980ms 0.282

J.M. Riley 1974

John Gordon 1982

John Gordon 1982

K. Schubert

Milo Gibson 1970

Homer Jacobs 1934

Corwin Davis 1968

Corwin Davis 1968

David K Wells 1990Z

Creech 1985

George Slate

More than 50 commercial nurseries market pawpaw seeds or trees in the U.S. For persons interested in high quality fruit production, we recommend purchasing container-grown trees grafted to a named cultivar. Two or more unrelated trees should be planted to ensure adequate cross-pollination. Regional adaptability will vary for each cultivar.

Table 2. Nutritional Comparison of Pawpaw with Other Fruits (a)



Food Energy -Calories 80

Protein -Grams 1.2

Total Fat -Grams 1.2

Carbohydrate - Grams 18.8

Dietary Fibre -Grams 2.6


Vitamin A -RE 8.6 (b)

Vitamin A -IU 87 (c)

Vitamin C -Milligrams 18.3

Thiamin -Milligrams 0.01 Riboflavin -Milligrams 0.09 Niacin -Milligrams 1.1


Potassium -Milligrams 345

Calcium -Milligrams 63

Phosphorus -Milligrams 47

Magnesium -Milligrams 113

Iron -Milligrams 7.0

Zinc -Milligrams 0.9

Copper -Milligrams 0.5

Manganese -Milligrams 2.6

Essential Amino Acids

Histidine -Milligrams 21

Isoleucine -Milligrams 70

Leucine -Milligrams 81

Lysine -Milligrams 60

Methionine -Milligrams 15

Cystine -Milligrams 4

Phenylalanine -Milligrams 51

Tyrosine -Milligrams 25

Threonine -Milligrams 46

Tryptophan -Milligrams 9

Valine -Milligrams 58



Food Energy -Calories 92

Protein -Grams 1.03

Total Fat -Grams 0.48

Carbohydrate -Grams 23.4

Dietary Fibre -Grams 2.4


Vitamin A -RE 8

Vitamin A- IU 81

Vitamin C -Milligrams 9.1

Thiamin -Milligrams 0.045

Riboflavin -Milligrams 0.1

Niacin -Milligrams 0.54


Potassium -Milligrams 396

Calcium -Milligrams 6

Phosphorus -Milligrams 20

Magnesium -Milligrams 29

Iron -Milligrams 0.31

Zinc -Milligrams​ 0.16

Copper -Milligrams 0.104

Manganese -Milligrams 0.152

Essential Amino Acids

Histidine -Milligrams 81

Isoleucine -Milligrams 33

Leucine -Milligrams 71

Lysine -Milligrams 48

Methionine -Milligrams 11

Cystine -Milligrams17

Phenylalanine -Milligrams 38

Tyrosine -Milligrams 24

Threonine -Milligrams 34

Tryptophan -Milligrams 12

Valine -Milligrams 47



Food Energy -Calories 59

Protein - Grams 0.19

Total Fat -Grams 0.36

Carbohydrate -Grams 15.25

Dietary Fibre -Grams 2.7


Vitamin A -RE 5

Vitamin A-IU 53

Vitamin C -Milligrams 5.7

Thiamin -Milligrams 0.017

Riboflavin -Milligrams 0.014

Niacin -Milligrams 0.077


Potassium -Milligrams 115

Calcium -Milligrams 7

Phosphorus -Milligrams 7

Magnesium -Milligrams​ 5

Iron -Milligrams 0.18

Zinc -Milligrams​ 0.04

Copper -Milligrams .041

Manganese -Milligrams 0.045

Essential Amino Acids

Histidine -Milligrams 3

Isoleucine -Milligrams 8

Leucine -Milligrams 12

Lysine -Milligrams 12

Methionine -Milligrams 2

Cystine -Milligrams​ 3

Phenylalanine -Milligrams 5

Tyrosine -Milligrams 4

Threonine -Milligrams 7

Tryptophan -Milligrams 2

Valine -Milligrams 9



Food Energy Calories 47

Protein -Grams 0.94

Total Fat -Grams 0.12

Carbohydrate -Grams 11.75

Dietary Fibre -Grams 2.4


Vitamin A -RE 21

Vitamin A -IU 205

Vitamin C -Milligrams 53.2

Thiamin -Milligrams 0.087

Riboflavin -Milligrams 0.04

Niacin -Milligrams 0.282


Potassium -Milligrams 181

Calcium -Milligrams 40

Phosphorus -Milligrams 14

Magnesium -Milligrams​ 10

Iron -Milligrams 0.1

Zinc -Milligrams​ 0.07

Copper -Milligrams .045

Manganese -Milligrams 0.025

Essential Amino Acids

Histidine -Milligrams 18

Isoleucine -Milligrams 25

Leucine -Milligrams 23

Lysine -Milligrams 47

Methionine -Milligrams 20

Cystine -Milligrams​ 10

Phenylalanine -Milligrams 31

Tyrosine -Milligrams 16

Threonine -Milligrams 15

Tryptophan -Milligrams 9

Valine -Milligrams 40

(a) Mean value per 100 grams edible portion. Pawpaw analysis was done on pulp with skin, although the skin is not considered edible. Probably much of the dietary fiber, and possibly some of the fat, would be thrown away with the skin. Number in bold face represents the highest value for each component. 

(b) Retinol Equivalents – these units are used in the most recent National Research Council Recommended Dietary Allowances table (1989). 

(c) International Units – these units are still seen on many labels. 

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