When To Pick Pawpaws: How To Tell If Pawpaw Fruit Is Ripe

Pawpaw Fruit With Brown Seeds
(Image credit: db_beyer)

If you have a pawpaw tree in your landscape, consider yourself lucky. These native trees are cold hardy, low maintenance, and have few pest issues, plus, they produce delicious, exotically flavored fruit. If you’re new to picking pawpaws you’re probably wondering how to tell if the pawpaw fruit is ripe. Read on to find out when to pick pawpaws.

When to Pick Pawpaws

Pawpaw picking season varies depending upon the cultivar and the location they are being grown. Generally, you would begin harvesting pawpaw fruit in midsummer through the first frost. Don’t rush pawpaw picking season! Leave the fruit on the tree until it softens for maximum flavor. As to how long you will be harvesting pawpaw fruit, again, it depends on the cultivar, location, and weather conditions. Harvest may only last a few days or up to a month.

How to Tell if Pawpaw Fruit is Ripe

Pawpaw fruit forms in clusters of from two to nine per cluster. Depending upon the cultivar, they may or may not change color to indicate that the fruit is ripening. So, to determine if you should be picking your pawpaws, use another indicator such as smell. Ripe pawpaws give off a wonderful fruity aroma. If the pawpaw does change color, it will likely turn a lighter shade of green, possibly with some yellowing. A more reliable indicator is feeling. The fruit will begin to feel softer, much as a peach or avocado. There will be some give when gently squeezed, and often if the fruit is ripe, it will slip easily from the tree with a mild tug. Eat them immediately fresh from the tree or refrigerate them and use them within the week. If allowed to stay on the tree past its peak, the fruit will yellow, develop brown blotching, and eventually blacken. Ideally, you want to pick the fruit when it is at its peak and fully ripe, but sometimes that just doesn’t work within life’s schedule. If for some reason you will be unable to harvest the fruit at its peak, the fruit can be picked at maturity but before fully ripe. It can then be refrigerated for about two to three weeks. When you want to eat the fruit, remove it from the fridge and allow it to ripen at room temperature over the course of a few days.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.