The Paw Paw, a close relative of the Cherimoya, is the only member of a tropical family of trees called Annonaceae that are able to survive outside of the tropics. The intriguing flavor of this fruit is akin to a fusion between a mango, pineapple, and banana.
Sometimes called the “Poor Man’s Banana”, the Paw Paw has made some notable appearances in American history. As minister to France in 1786, Thomas Jefferson once arranged for Paw Paw seeds to be shipped to his friends living abroad as samples of America’s edible exotica. Later, renowned explorers Lewis and Clark paid homage to the Paw Paw in their travels, noting that during one expedition in 1806 they had survived largely on this foraged fruit when their own supplies were exhausted.
Enthusiasts from Michigan to West Virginia have named towns and lakes after the Paw Paw yet the fruit is rarely found in markets. In California, Paw Paws were first cultivated commercially by John Lagier, a longtime certified organic farmer. Though Lagier’s maternal great-grand father began cultivating the fruit trees in the 1870’s, it wasn’t until 1999 that the first acre of market-designated Paw Paws were planted on his property after being purchased via an exotic fruit buyer in San Francisco.