The papaw is another fruit I knew well as a child. It is sometimes
called custard-apple because the flesh resembles soft custard. As I
write I can almost taste the, to me, sickish sweetness of the fruit and
feel the large, smooth, flat seeds in my mouth. In shape the papaw
somewhat resembles the banana, the texture of the skin is the same, but
the surface of the papaw is smoothly rounded and it is shorter and
an the banana, being usually from three to five inches long.
It ripens in September and October. The tree is small, often a shrub,
and it grows wild no farther north than western New York.
There are some cultivated papaw-trees on Long Island, but I do not think
they bear fruit. Certainly none that I have seen have ever fruited. You
will find the tree as far south as Florida and Texas, through the Middle
States and west to Michigan and Kansas. It flourishes in the bottom
lands of the Mississippi Valley and seeks the shade of the forests. The
bark is dark brown with gray blotches; the leaves are large, being from
two to twelve inches long and four inches wide. They are oval, pointed
at the tip and narrowed at the base. When matured they are smooth, dark
green on the upper side and paler beneath. At first the flower is as
green as the leaves, but finally turns a deep red-purple. It grows close
to the branch and is solitary.