In my book, Foodscaping, I talk a lot about growing trees not just for shade or flowering, but for their fruiting.
While apples and cherries also can make great yard trees, I like to try the unusual, such as the paw paw. What's a paw paw, you ask?
This native tree is related to the subtropical cherimoya and looks exotic, but is hardy to zone five.
It grows in a conical shape, 25 feet tall, with large, avocado-like leaves.
What's best is the fruit. Clusters of six inch long, up to one pound, mango-shaped fruits form and ripen in early fall.
The soft yellow and orange flesh has a flavor reminiscent of banana, mango, and papaya. Yum!
Paw paws are native to areas west and south of here, and there are towns and festivals named after this fruit, but it also grows in New England and New York state.
Nurseries are even catching on by selling different varieties.
You'll need two different varieties, such as NC-1 and Davis, to get fruit.
Two-year-old trees grow best in full sun, on well-drained, slightly acidic soil.
They have a brittle taproot, so don't transplant well. It may take up to five years to get fruit, but they're worth waiting for.
One drawback of paw paws is the flowers are not easily pollinated. Bees don’t seem to like them. It’s best to hand-pollinate trees to get fruit. You can do this at flowering with a paint brush transferring the yellow pollen to flowers between the different trees.
Eat paw paws fresh or make pies or ice cream with them.
Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about unusual irises. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.