written by Jack Sprout for DumDittyDo.com All World Wide Rights Reserved
Fetching the mail, to me, is like hunting Christmas. Is there anything different? Anything for ME?? Most things through our mailbox are bills or correspondence to “Resident”. So when something DOES arrive for me, It’s Like Christmas.
Yesterday was Christmas for me (always nice when temps are nearing 100).
After sending a text to Kentucky State University, and then providing my brick n mortar addy, they sent me (10) Paw Paw seeds, already cold stratified and ready for planting.
They also sent along a little info page, that essentially tells you how to care for your young plants, and how to germinate them for optimal growth. (they are a deep rooted understory tree, and prefer shade the first 1-2 years, before thriving in full sun to produce their custardy fruit.)
FYI, The Paw Paw (‘Asimina triloba’) is the largest tropical fruit indigenous to North America. It thrives along the east coast, but has now been spread and bred to produce prolifically across the nation. It most closely resembles a banana (often being called a poor mans banana, or mini banana) and has a custard type filling that has a hint of pineapple to it. Or so I’ve read. It’s also known as the Indiana Banana, a custard-apple, and my personal favorite – the ‘Banango’. I’ve had a devil of a time finding these anywhere in order to test one for myself.
They ripen extremely quickly, and when ripe, only last a day or so before rotting. (like a fig – or banana-, I’m thinking) Hence, the difficulty in locating. According to Wikipedia, our founding fathers (George Washington and Thomas Jefferson) both ate this as a frozen treat, and the latter even incorporated them into his own garden in Monticello. (I’m looking forward to trying this Presidential treat myself.)
To make a long story short, (which, makes it longer, I think) I have become somewhat manic about this new obsession, and I opted to plant my own seeds just to taste one of these buggers. I’ve already planted (4) saplings in the yard, 2 of which have died. (Bugle playing TAPS in the mental background)
To plant your own, you need either seeds or saplings from (2) different trees. These guys have super fragile roots, so digging them up in the wild is quite difficult. The link above to the Kentucky State University is the only University focused on preserving this little gem, and they have bred them to be great producers. In a few years, (I hope to send out freebie seeds and sell saplings). If you get your seeds elsewhere, you may need to cold stratify by putting the seeds in a potting mix and storing in the fridge. It takes like 4-6 months of cold time to break the embryonic seal, just don’t freeze or let the mixture dry out.
Paw-Paws are not Papaya, though I think they call a Papaya a Paw-Paw in some parts of the world. The Paw Paws is also a deep rooter. In fact, for the first two months of germination, the seed is mostly sending down its tap root. For this reason, it is suggested using something deep (at least 12″) to start your seeds.
I chose 5 gallon buckets (14″ deep filled to brim) and drilled some small holes in the bottom to facilitate drainage. Further, as an understory tree, I placed the 5 gallon buckets under a mature Pecan tree, in the section of the yard that receives mostly ambient light all day long. aka, mostly shade. In order to germinate, temperatures need to be 75+ or warmer, and NOT receive direct sunlight.
I placed (3) seeds into each 5 gallon bucket and with the 10th, attempted something … different. Using some 2″ PVC water pipe, I capped the bottom and packed it full of garden soil, planting the final seed in the top 1″ of soil, as directed by the directions.
I will do a few follow up articles in the months / years to come.