Today I plan to give you some recipes for pawpaw, so my first step must be to explain exactly which fruit I am referring too.
In America, I understand that ‘pawpaw’ refers to Asimina triloba, a plant in the same family as the cherimoya and the soursop. The fruit has a large number of common names, many of which seem to include the word ‘banana’ (poor man’s banana, Kansas banana, Missouri banana, banago etc etc.). The tree is native to the North American Continent, and is somewhat of a mystery to me, so I leave it to my American friends to comment.
In Australia, when we say pawpaw, we are referring to the fruit of Carica papaya, a tree native to the South American continent, but now widely grown in the tropical parts of the world, including my home state of Queensland, where it grows as easily as a weed in any backyard. The fruit comes in two main colour-ways – the yellow-fleshed, and the red-fleshed (which is really nearer orange-coloured) – except when it is unripe and green, in which state it makes a fine vegetable. For marketing purposes in Australia, the yellow is referred to as the pawpaw, and the red as papaya.
To give a little historical perspective, I give you the first recorded uses of the words in English, from the Oxford English Dictionary:
Papaya: 1598 W. Phillip tr. J. H. van Linschoten Disc. Voy. E. & W. Indies i. liv. 97/1 There is also a fruite that came out of the Spanish Indies, brought..to Malacca, & from thence to India, it is called Papaios [Du. Papaios], and is very like a Mellon, as bigge as a mans fist.
Pawpaw: 1624 J. Smith Hist. Bermudas in Gen. Hist. Virginia v. 171 The most delicate Pine-apples, Plantans, and Papawes
And, because I love a literary food mention:
1932 W. S. Maugham Narrow Corner xix. 143 Breakfast in the little hotels in the Dutch East Indies..never varies. Papaia, œufs sur le plat, cold meat, and Edam cheese.
The recipes for the day are for Carica papaya, and come from Australian newspapers, because a glut of pawpaw/papaya is not an uncommon problem in the tropics. But firstly, a brief summary of Australian thoughts on the fruit in the 1930’s, from The Northern Herald (Cairns, Qld.) of 26th August 1933:
From a paper read at the annual meeting of one of the West Indian Agricultural Societies last January, and reproduced in the Proceedings of the Agricultural Society of Trinidad, we make the following extracts: After giving various particulars of the fruit, most of which already are familiar to our readers, the paper gives the following amongst the purposes for which the pawpaw is used:
(a) As a food in various forms, viz., in its ripe state as a breakfast fruit, for which purpose it is cut lengthwise into individual portions and the seeds are removed. It is flavoured to suit the taste by the addition of lime juice, salt, pepper, or sugar.
(b) As a dessert fruit when it is sliced, and eaten with sugar and crushed ice.
(c) As a salad combined with lettuce; or in Mayonnaise; or served with greens celery and onions.
(d) The green fruit may be boiled or baked and served as a vegetable.
(e) As a crystallised fruit, and it is sometimes made into pickles, marmalade, jelly, pie, jam, ice cream and sherbet.
(f) The by-product “Papain” may be used in the clarification of beer and syrups containing proteins.
Nearly all parts of the pawpaw are said to have some medicinal value. The most important medicinal properties are said to be found in the milky juice which occurs most abundantly in the green fruit. Most of the medicinal properties of the juice are said to be due to the active principle called “Papain,” which has been recognised as one of considerable value in dyspepsia and kindred ailments. Its digestive action has long been recognised here, where it is not uncommon practice to rub a slice of green juicy papaya on tough meat to make it tender. Another practice is to wrap the meat in crushed papaya leaves overnight preparatory to cooking it.
The first batch of recipes is from the Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld.) of 16 November 1934.
Pawpaws Are In.
Some Novel Recipes.
Always peel pawpaws thinly, as the part nearest the skin is best in flavour, and the most nutritious. Being rich in pepain, this fruit is utilised in various medicinal preparations. The seeds are particularly rich in pepain, and in South Africa they are often used in summer time to form a basis for a refreshing lemon or orange drink.
Soak the seeds for a few hours in boiling water, and then strain off the liquid and add it to any ordinary cool drink, such as is made with water, lemons, and sugar.
A Quaint Breakfast Dish.
Cut a firm, ripe pawpaw into slices, pass each through flour seasoned with salt and pepper, and fry in bacon fat; serve on slices of toast with rashers of fried bacon – if you prefer eggs to bacon fry the pawpaw in similar manner and lay it on thick slices of hot buttered toast, piling some nicely scrambled eggs on top and dusting the egg with finely chopped parsley.
Pawpaw Fritters for Luncheon.
Wash and peel the fruit, and cut into convenient pieces – round or long as you prefer. Place in a dish, add a good squeeze of lemon juice, and a dusting of good castor sugar, and leave for an hour. Make a really good fritter batter and flavour it with vanilla essence. Drain the pawpaw, dip in the batter, and fry quickly in boiling fat or oil. Serve at once with a dusting of ground nuts, mixed with powdered cinnamon, spice, and castor sugar.
For some rather more traditional recipes for fruit, the Tweed Daily (Murwillumbah, NSW) of 5th November 1925, has a few simple ideas:
Cut two green paw-paws into discs, 2 dessertspoons of mustard, 1 teaspoon of peppercorns, 1 cup of brown sugar, ½ cup raisins (seeded); 1 onion - (finely chopped), and 1 bottle vinegar.
Boil all together, until paw-paw is soft, then let it thicken. Allow to cool before bottling.
Take two green pawpaws; 2 lemons and 3 cups sugar. Slice the paw-paws and lemon and sprinkle with sugar, and stand overnight. Boil all together until syrup thickens.
One green paw-paw, a few cloves, chillies, and peppercorns, and a little salt and pepper.
Chop up paw-paw finely,and boil with one bottle of vinegar for half an hour. Bottle when cool.