Other names: Papaya
Fruit: There are two types of paw paws, Hawaiian and Mexican. The Hawaiian varieties are pear-shaped with bright orange or pinkish and yellow skin when ripe. Mexican paw paws are much larger than the Hawaiian weighing up to 5 kilograms and have yellow, orange or pink flesh. The flavour of homegrown paw paws is delicious and often distinctly sweeter than the insipid paw paws commonly sold in supermarkets.
Growth Habit: The paw paw (or papaya as it is known elsewhere) is a very fast-growing small tree, which reaches 3-5m in height. They are relatively short lived trees, averaging 5-10 years in life expectancy. The cyclindical, hollow green trunk is quite straight and the trees generally only branch out if injured.
Foliage/Flowers: Large, single, lime-green pointy leaves adorn the end of long, narrow stems which cluster at the top of the paw paw trees. Leaves grow for 4-6 months before falling off, and leaving notable scars on the tree trunk. Some plants bear only short-stalked female flowers, and others only longer male flowers, while bi-sexual paw paws bear both male and female flowers.
Adaptation: Paw Paws grow well from the tropics to warm temperate areas. Paw Paws love sunshine, reflected heat, and protection from the winds, so a position near a sunny house wall is ideal. Frosts will kill young trees, so ensure they are especially well protected when young. On the NSW coast, planting on the north-east side of the house will shelter paw paw from the winter westerlies winds.
Soils : The ideal soil for paw paws is very well-draining, fertile, and rich in organic matter. It’s a good idea to create a shallow mound of soil rich in compost and plant the paw paw no earlier than late spring.
Irrigation : Paw paws are easily killed by excess moisture, so be careful not to overwater. In winter the plant prefers to remain as dry as possible.
Pruning : Paw Paws are not normally pruned, but established plants can be cut back to encourage multiple trunks.
Propagation : Most commonly propagated from seed but can also be grown from cuttings.
Pests and diseases : Root rot can be an issue, so ensure free draining soil.
Harvest: Paw Paws are ready to harvest from spring to autumn when most of the skin has turned from green to yellow. They will ripen and soften further off the tree, if they have not been picked too green - dark green fruit will not ripen properly off the tree. However the dark green unripe fruit can be eaten raw in salad (as in the popular Thai Green Papaya salad) or used in a stir-fry.
Varieties: Bisexual paw paws are recommended for the home gardener as only one plant is needed to set fruit.