Way down yonder in the paw paw patch

Posted by | September 12, 2011

Call it the American Custard Apple or the West Virginia Banana, but it’s neither apple nor banana. It’s the Paw-paw (Asimina trilob), the largest native fruit of North America, and it grows throughout Appalachia. There are about seven other members of the genus Asimina, all growing in the southeastern U.S. Mature pawpaw trees produce fruits 2″ wide by 10″ long, which turn from green, to yellow, and then black as they ripen in the fall.

Where, oh where is pretty little Susie?
Where, oh where is pretty little Susie?
Where, oh where is pretty little Susie?
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.

Come on, boys [or girls, or kids], let’s go find her,
Come on, boys, let’s go find her,
Come on, boys, let’s go find her,
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.

Pickin’ up paw-paws, puttin’ ‘em in her pockets,
Pickin’ up paw-paws, puttin’ ‘em in her pockets,
Pickin’ up paw-paws, puttin’ ‘em in her pockets,
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.

—The Paw Paw Patch
Traditional folk song

Paw-paw fruits are rich in minerals such as magnesium, copper, zinc, iron, manganese, potassium, and phosphorus. The fruit also contains abundant concentrations of Vitamin C, proteins, and their derivative amino acids. The Peterson Field Guide mentions that the seeds, along with being an emetic, have narcotic properties.

Paw Paw treeThe paw-paw pulp may be eaten raw, made into ice cream, baked, or used as a pie filling. Some Appalachian cooks make a custard out of “Poppaws.” Seed them, mash them, add milk, a little sugar, an egg and some allspice. Pour the batter into custard cups and set those in a bread pan with some water in the bottom of the pan. Bake at a medium heat. Stick a broom straw or toothpick in, and when it comes up clean it’s done. Paw-paw also makes an excellent dry, white wine. It can be made from fresh or canned fruit.

The paw-paw is sensitive to ultraviolet light, thus, paw paw seedlings may not grow back after forests have been clear cut, and there are very few virgin forests left in the United States. Paw-paws can be found growing there abundantly, but once the forests are harvested, the paw paw will not usually re-establish.


American+custard+apple West+Virginia+banana paw+paw appalachia +appalachian+culture appalachian+history

7 Responses

  • JON says:


  • Privacy says:

    Contact Kentucky State University if you are interested in growing some PawPaws, they are trying to foster an industry. I am convinced there is a market.

  • Tom Moore says:

    Will pawpaw trees grow in Southwestern, Pa?

  • Dave Tabler says:

    Consider that Elbinsville, PA, in the southwest corner of the state, is only 34 miles from Paw Paw, WV, named for the famous tree that grows there. I’d say there’s a pretty strong chance they’ll grow in Southwestern Pennsylvania, yes.

  • lakotahope says:

    Paw paws grow all along the James river in the Richmond Va city limits

  • Growing up in southern West Va. makes me have very fond memories of going to pick paw paws with my Dad and Mom.I can see the old farm house sitting up on a slight hill with a rock wall that ran along the property line. My recollection is the pappaw trees were along the rock wall. The pappaws always turned black after a day or so and were rich tasting. I remenber them to have a black seed that was flat and hard. Never had any since my youth but remember going down to the pappaw patch more than once.Since Mom and Dad are gone I doubt I could even find the location but the memories remain clear.

  • Gerri Lynn BoydstUn says:

    My grandparents are all from Kentucky. My greats had moved to Oklahoma. Down in the SW corner. I now live in Colorado (n. central). Ain’t no pawpaws here! My grands and parents sang it to me and I sang it to mine. Along with… “Up up in the sky, where the little birds fly. Down, down in the nest, where the little birds rest…..”

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