The Paw Paw, a close relative of the Cherimoya, is the only member of a tropical family of trees called Annonaceae that is able to survive outside of the tropics. Its unusual flavor is suggestive of a fusion between a mango, a pineapple, and a 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 abroad as samples of America’s edible exotica. Later, renowned explorers Lewis and Clark paid homage to Paw Paws in their travels, noting during one expedition in 1806 that they had survived largely on the foraged fruit when their own supplies had been exhausted.
Paw Paw enthusiasts from Michigan to West Virginia have named towns and lakes after the unusual fruit which 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 farming in the 1870’s, it wasn’t until 1999 that the first acre of Paw Paws were planted on his property after being purchased via an exotic fruit buyer in San Francisco.