Meet the Pawpaw: Missouri's Forgotten Fruit

       Ingredients for pawpaw pie, minus the pawpaw. | Mabel Suen
The plump, round tropical fruit has big flat seeds. A chef's knife cut straight through its smooth, custard-like flesh, and its flavor reminds us of some wacky combination off of the gas-station candy shelf: a fusion of mango smashed with banana with hints of melon and pineapple.

"It's like a tropical custard pie," says Moore. "It's an interesting fruit that changes and intensifies dramatically depending on when you eat it. The riper it is, the sweeter and more caramel-flavored it becomes."

We did our best to preserve the fruit in our crisper and waited a bit too long -- it was very ripe (itsshort shelf life is one of many reasons the pawpaw has fallen out of favor in the U.S.). We decided to give it a try anyhow, using a pawpaw pie recipe via NPR.

       Pawpaw filling. | Mabel Suen
First, we removed the skin and seeds, a surprisingly simple task. Then, we tried pulping it a couple different ways, through a strainer and using a food mill. Both methods worked fine, catching the majority of the fibrous material and leaving behind a bright yellow pulp that freezes well, if necessary.

After that, we set out to work assembling. We used some leftover homemade graham crackers combined with brown sugar and melted butter as the base, and essentially made a pawpaw pudding for the filling, enhanced with lime juice and zest per the recipe's direction.

The acid lent a nice tang to the pawpaw pudding's creamy sweetness, but it turned it into something that resembled a key-lime pie rather than allowing the fruit to be the main focus. Aesthetically speaking, it made it look a bit too much like salsa con queso or a revisit of said salsa after a long night of too much drinking.

       The pie is complete! | Mabel Suen
Thankfully, some fresh whipped cream and raspberries spruced it right up. Not surprisingly, the pawpaw isn't an entry in the Flavor Bible, but mango is, and mango goes well with banana which goes well with raspberries which goes well with graham crackers which goes well with lime (which is good enough for us).

The pawpaw pie didn't win us over entirely, but then again we didn't get to use the fruit in its prime. Moore insists that the best way to enjoy the fruit is fresh out of the hand. The second best way? As a simple fruit, cream and sugar ice cream unadulterated by cooking and additional flavorings like vanilla. Better luck next year, pawpaw! We promise we'll treat you better.

Moore hopes to have his book out by next pawpaw season. Follow "the Pawpaw Book" on Twitter and Flickr.

Click through to see some of Moore's photos from his travels so far.

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