National Pawpaw Day Date in the current year: September 19, 2024

National Pawpaw Day National Pawpaw Day is celebrated annually on the third Thursday of September. It was created to honor an American fruit that deserves much more attention and recognition than it gets.

The American pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a small deciduous tree in the same family as the African custard-apple, cherimoya, sugar apple (sweetsop), ylang-ylang, and soursop. Asimina is the only temperate genus in the otherwise tropical and subtropical family. Even though pawpaw fruits may look and taste like tropical fruits, the American pawpaw is actually native to the eastern United States and Canada. Its range extends from southern Ontario to northern Florida and as far west as eastern Nebraska.

Historically, pawpaw fruits were commonly eaten throughout the tree’s native range and were one of the main dietary staples for many Native peoples. The earliest documented mention of pawpaws can be found in a report of Hernando de Soto’s 1539–1541 expedition. Today, however, pawpaws are less widely cultivated than, for example, apples or peaches, primarily because they are hard to store and ship (fully ripe pawpaws bruise easily and last only a few days at room temperature and up to a week in the refrigerator).

Pawpaw fruits have a creamy, custard-like texture and a tropical flavor that is typically described as a combination of banana, mango, cantaloupe, and pineapple. Due to its flavor and texture, pawpaw works as a good substitute for bananas in most recipes, which is reflected in some of its names such as “Kentucky banana” and “poor man’s banana”.

Pawpaws are very nutritious because they contain more protein than most other fruits. They are also high in manganese, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, and B vitamins. Fresh pawpaws are commonly eaten raw, but their pulp can also be used in various dishes such as frozen desserts, baked desserts, and pancakes. Pawpaws can be preserved; common methods of preservation include freezing, dehydration, pressure canning, and production of jellies or jams.

Since pawpaws can be hard to come by outside of their native range, many people don’t know about this American fruit or get it confused with papaya. National Pawpaw Day was created in 2019 by the Kentucky State University (KSU) to rectify this and raise awareness of this amazing fruit. KSU runs the world’s only full-time pawpaw research program that aims to gain a better understanding of the fruit, improve growing methods, breed new cultivars, and develop new pawpaw products.

There are many ways to celebrate National Pawpaw Day. You can learn interesting facts about this delicious fruit and share them with anyone who is willing to listen, enjoy some fresh pawpaws if they are available where you live or try cooking with pawpaws, visit the Ohio Pawpaw Festival that takes place around the same time (if you’ve missed this year’s festival, you can start planning a trip to the next one), and spread the word about the holiday on social media with the hashtag #NationalPawPawDay.

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National Pawpaw Day, unofficial holidays, observances in the US, food days, American pawpaw, American fruit