If you’ve never heard of a pawpaw, don’t feel bad — I only learned about them a few weeks ago myself. Well sort of. I’d actually been hearing about them for months from Sam Consylman, one of the farmers at the Livengood Family Farm stand at the South and Passyunk Farmers’ Market. And when pawpaw season finally arrived, Sam invited me and another loyal South- and Passyunk-market goer to go foraging for this rare fruit in the Susquehannock State Park.
So, on a sunny September morning, Christine and I trekked out to Lancaster to learn about pawpaws. We shook trees, dodged snakes, avoided groundhog holes and tucked into this unknown fruit, tasting almost like a cross between a mango and a banana. Learning and hunting for pawpaws — a fruit indigenous to this area — was memorable to say the least.
It turns out that pawpaw flesh, like bananas and apple sauce, takes well to baking. I made pawpaw cookies first, which were good but cake-like, and so, I experimented with a quick bread. I replaced the banana in my mother’s delectable banana bread recipe with the same amount of pawpaw flesh. Success! Moist and fruity, the pawpaw quick bread tasted better and better with each passing day. Now, because pawpaw season is over, use bananas instead — it is a wonderful recipe, and the bread, when baked in small loaf pans, makes a nice gift.
butter or spray oil for greasing
2 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon table salt
2 scant cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla
3 cups pawpaw pulp*
*An equal amount of mashed ripe bananas can be used in place of pawpaws
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a bundt pan or 2 standard-sized load pans (8 x 11) or 5 mini loaf pans. Set aside.
Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla. Add the pawpaw pulp, and beat to combine. Add the dry ingredients and mix only until the flour is incorporated — don’t overmix.
Pour batter into prepared pans and place in the oven. (If using mini pans, place them on a sheet pan first.) Bake for 40 to 45 minutes for mini pans or 45 to 60 minutes for the bundt and larger loaf pans. Cake should be brown and should start to leave the sides of the pan.
Let cool on rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.