Paw paw is yummy and loves the Tropics

paw paw fruit
paw paw fruit
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Champion of the Underdog » Tropical Gardening » Paw paw is yummy and loves the Tropics

Introducing Paw Paw

Paw paw has the botanical name Carica papaya. It is known as papaya in most of the world. However, in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa papaya only refers to the red fleshed version of the fruit. The yellow fleshed version is known as paw paw.

The plant is technically not a tree, but a tree-shaped herb. It fruits from the main trunk. Native to Mexico and South America, this plant has spread to other tropical regions. Indeed it is now loved in tropical gardens around the world.

Growing Paw Paw

Paw Paw tree
Paw Paw tree

Trees fruit well for more than 5 years. For this reason, it is best to stagger planting of trees. Annual planting ensures you have a fruitful harvest over future years.

In the tropics, this plant grows all year round. Like dragon fruit they are very easy to grow. Flowering takes place over many weeks, so fruit can exist at different stages of development at the same time.

Paw Paw in Your Garden 

  1. Locate your paw paw in a sunny place in the garden with well-drained soil. If the soil is clay based, dig some gypsum in when planting.
  2. Make the hole two times as wide and the same depth as the root-ball. Remove the shrub from the container, place in the hole and backfill with soil.
  3. Water in well and thereafter water weekly for six weeks as the plant becomes established.
  4. Mulch around the base with sugarcane, lucerne or other organic material. Keep mulch away from the trunk to avoid root
  5. Water once a week during the dry season. Deep watering is more beneficial than shallow watering.
  6. Provided soil is adequate, you need to fertilise just once each year, usually some time in spring. 
  7. Pick fruit when it is fully or at least half yellow and it will ripen on a bench inside.

Paw paw in a Pot

  1. Select a pot at least 600mm wide and deep.
  2. Position your pot in a place where it will get plenty of sun. Protecting the tree from strong winds is important. 
  3. Fill the pot with good quality soil and make a hole in the middle. Place your paw paw in the hole and backfill with potting mix. Make sure to water in well.  
  4. Mulch around the base with sugarcane, lucerne or other organic material. Keep mulch away from the trunk to avoid root rot.
  5. Water deeply, once a week for most of the year. During summer you may need to water twice a week if the plant is undercover and missing the ‘wet season’. If the pot is outside, it will only require occasional watering during the wet season.
  6. Fertilise with manure or rich organic compost each year in spring and autumn.
  7. Pick the fruit when it is fully or at least half yellow and it will ripen on a bench inside.


Most paw paws have male and female flowers on separate trees, but there are bisexual trees available. Male flowers are borne on long, thin stalks and there are usually multiple blooms. Female flowers are usually single blooms, held closely to the tree. We purchase the bisexual variety from the local nursery.

How do I grow Paw Paw from Seed?

1. Obtain a ripe paw paw (grown on a bisexual tree) and scoop out the seeds and pulp.
2. Rinse using a strainer and place remaining seed and pulp in a container of water and leave for a few days.
3. Rinse again to remove remaining pulp from seeds (you may have to do this a few times).
4. Dry seeds on dry paper and leave in a cool dark place for a few days.
5. When you are ready, plant in your seed tray or pot. Make sure you over-sow and when the seedings come up, simply thin out your seedlings, keeping the best ones.

Pests and Diseases

Aphids and caterpillars

Growers should keep an eye out for aphids and caterpillars. However, if you only have a few trees, it is usually easy enough to just pick them off by hand.

Fruit Fly

You can defend against fruit fly by hanging fruit fly traps around the trees. 

Fruit Rot and Fungal Problems

Paw Paw Plant

Limit fruit rot and fungal problems by picking the fruit early and ripening it on a bench inside.

Powdery mildew can attack the leaves and fruit. It can be adressed during the humidity of summer by ensuring good airflow around the plants. If that is not sufficient you can apply a recommended fungicide.

The Paw Paw Fruit

The fruit is technically a large berry. It is eaten ripe as a fruit. It is also used as a vegetable when picked green for a green salad.

The ripe fruit can be scooped out and eaten with a spoon. It has a sweet, custard-like flavour somewhat similar to mango or banana. The fruit is commonly eaten directly with a spoon. However, it can also be used to make smoothies or even ice cream.

Uterine contractions in pregnant women.

Unripe fruit contain a latex, which may cause uterine contractions. While paw paw alone may not be the problem, it is important to know this. We could find no hard studies to back up the idea that the consumption of papaya is unsafe while pregnant. However, it may not be completely safe to eat while expecting. There is enough folklore around this issue in tropical areas, such as Far North Queensland to take the warning seriously.

Health Benefits

If you are not pregnant, the health benefits of this fruit are undeniable. The fruit is rich in nutrients. It is high in vitamin C and It also contains iron, magnesium and potassium. Paw paw consumption prevents constipation and heartburn.

Immune System

Paw paw has anti-inflammatory properties. It has been used to help with disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Pawpaw also helps to treat common injuries of the joints and muscles.


Studies claim that fermented paw paw can reduce oxidative stress, particularly in older adults and people with prediabetes, mild hypothyroidism and liver disease. The reduction in oxidative stress is attributed to lycopene in the fruit and the ability to remove excess iron, which is known to produce free radicals.

Other Uses

Pure paw paw is used to produce ointment that can be used for things such as nappy rash, dry lips and more generally as a skin moisturiser.

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Tropical Gardening

By Rob Pyne

Quadriplegic, Former MP, Councillor & Political Campaigner: Rob is an Eco Socialist who shares ways to survive & fight capitalism. #socialism #championoftheunderdog Occupation: Online Editor Employer: Champion of the Underdog! Book: Struggle and Resistance in the Far North

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