How Did the Tiny Town of Paw Paw, Michigan Get Its Name?
I promise you, I was born and raised in West Michigan. So why am I only learning about this now?!
Having grown up in nearby Allegan I'm no stranger to the Paw Paw, Michigan area. Just being around the name so long I never really questioned what it meant. I guess it does sound kind of silly, but did you have any idea a "paw paw" is real; and edible no less!
Once abundantly available in Southwest Michigan the tropical-- yes, tropical-- fruit is known for its yellowish-green outer skin and it's mango flavor. Can you believe it's actually native to Michigan?
The People's Food Co-op of Kalamazoo (PFC) writes,
The mostly unheard of, mango like fruit known as the pawpaw belongs to the small deciduous tree Asimina triloba, they were once so abundant in SW Michigan that the town of Paw Paw is named after them...Development has reduced their numbers significantly over the years but they can still be found
Ok but where do you find them?
Wild Paw Paws
Today, the paw paw fruit can still be found throughout Southwest Michigan during the months of September and October.
Wild paw paw trees are patch-forming, meaning if you find one paw paw tree you're bound to find another close by! Add PFC Market,
They are an understory tree only growing to around 35 feet tall, but with broad simple leaves that range from 10-12 inches long by 4-6 inches wide...they prefer partial shade and fertile well drained soil. They are often found along creeks and stream banks and floodplains.
Uses for Paw Paws
Paw paws are best enjoyed fresh, but because they offer such a mango/banana-like flavor they're excellent in smoothies, desserts, and you can even add them to your own home brewed beer!
If you don't dare go foraging for paw paws yourself, you can also find them at local farmers markets while they're in season. Happy hunting!
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