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“New” Fruit Catching On Fast
If you are looking for a new “tropical” fruit to grow this year, check out the pawpaw. It’s hardly a new fruit. Native to the U.S., it sustained members of the Lewis and Clark expedition through Missouri as well as scores of homesteaders. Now with decades of breeding, the native pawpaw is bigger and better than ever and gaining buzz among foodies, market growers and home gardeners.
  “It’s one of our fastest growing (in popularity) specialty crops,” says Kim Young, of Forrest Keeling Nursery. The Elsberry, Mo., nursery grows native plants for restoration and wetlands, as well as specialty crops such as pawpaw, chestnut and Aronia (chokeberry).
  “Our method of growing allows for great transplant success,” Young says, noting pawpaw is among trees difficult to transplant. “We developed a patented growing process, the Root Production Method®, that creates a very fibrous root system that allows the plant to take up water and nutrients for accelerated growth in the first year and for bigger harvests,” Young says.
  The process includes air-root pruning, and special nutrition and soil.
  Home gardeners and farmers market growers love the big yellow fruit from the pawpaw, described as tasting like creamy mango or a cross between an apple and banana. It’s high in antioxidants, and researchers are evaluating its other nutrients.
  Pawpaws have 2-in. maroon blossoms, and the fruit ripens over a month between August and October, depending on the region. With only a shelf life of a couple of days (three weeks refrigerated) it is used as a fresh fruit that varies from 3 to 6 in. long and from 5 16 oz.
  Young notes that Neal Peterson (after three decades of research) developed the six pawpaw varieties they sell. Suitable for Zones 5 to 9 (sometimes 4), two varieties of pawpaws should be planted to pollinate. Trees can bear fruit as early as the second year.
  Young adds that chestnut hybrids are also growing in popularity, especially in Michigan. The fruit inside the spiny shell is used in stuffing and breads and is gluten-free.
  Other Forrest Keeling specialty crop plants/trees include persimmons, elderberry, Aronia, pecans and walnuts. Homeowners can purchase them at the Forrest Keeling’s garden center or through the website, www.g2gardens.com. Wholesalers should go to the Forrest Keeling nursery website.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Forrest Keeling Nursery, 88 Forrest Keeling Lane, Elsberry, Mo. 63343 (ph 800 356-2401; www.fknursery.com).

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2015 - Volume #39, Issue #3