Table of contents
Introducing Paw Paw
With the botanical name Carica papaya, this plant 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.
Paw paw is technically a tree shaped herb. It fruits from the main trunk. Native to Mexico and South America, the paw paw has spread and become loved in tropical gardens around the world.
Growing Paw Paw
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, paw paw grow all year round. Flowering takes place over many weeks, so fruit can exist at different stages of development at the same time.
Paw Paw in Your Yard Garden
- 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.
- 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.
- Water in well and water weekly for six weeks as the plant becomes established.
- Mulch around the base with sugarcane, lucerne or other organic material.
- Water once a week during the dry season. Deep watering is more beneficial than shallow watering.
- Provided soil is adequate, you need to fertilise just once each year, usually some time in spring.
- Pick fruit when it is fully or at least half yellow and it will ripen on a bench inside.
Paw paw in a Pot
- Select a pot at least 600mm wide and deep.
- Position your pot in a place where it will get plenty of sun and be protected from strong winds.
- 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.
- Mulch around the base with sugarcane, lucerne or other organic material. Keep mulch away from the trunk to avoid root rot.
- 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.
- Fertilise with manure or rich organic compost each year in spring and autumn.
- 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 that are held closely to the tree. We purchase the bisexual variety from the local nursery.
Pests and Diseases
Aphids and caterpillars
Growers should keep an eye out for aphids and caterpillars. If you only have a few trees, it is usually easy enough to just pick them off by hand.
Defend against fruit fly by hanging fruit fly traps around the trees.
Fruit Rot and Fungal Problems
Limit fruit rot and fungal problems by picking the fruit early and ripening it on a bench inside. During the humidity of summer, mildew can be discouraged by ensuring good airflow around the plants.
The fruit is technically a large berry. It can be eaten ripe as a fruit or 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, but 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.
If you are not pregnant, the health benefits of paw paw are undeniable. The fruit is rich in nutrients. It is high in vitamin C and It also contains iron, magnesium and potassium. It is proven to prevent constipation and heartburn.
Ointment is made from pure paw paw. It is often used as a lip balm and a skin moisturiser.