Pawpaws are North America's largest edible indigenous fruit. Why had I never had one before? The best explanation seems to be that they don't "work" for business: they don't keep long, they don't ship well, they don't ripen off the tree, they don't preserve well. Food that can't be marketed on a large scale doesn't "make sense" to grow in our consumer society.
After years of being fascinated with "strange" fruits that grow in our climate—Siberian kiwis, juneberries, chokecherries, gooseberies, honeyberries, persimmons, pawpaws—I got my hands on some pawpaws for the first time. I think the discovery will be a bonanza, since I got the pawpaws from Lee Reich, the genius of Northeastern fruits, who, it turns out, lives and works in New Paltz.
Pawpaw trees look tropical. The fruit, a berry actually, looks tropical. The smell of a small bag full made me swoon, and think I was near the equator. After a good while of sniffing pleasure, I cut one open and dipped in with a spoon. The creamy fruit tastes like custard, sweet and unusual and very rich. Lest I've downplayed the impact these fruits had: the pawpaws and the maitake mushroom have been the most valuable thing I've had my paws on this year.
The fact that pawpaws don't work well for commercial sellers pleases me. Lee says they are easy to grow and take care of, productive, and the ultimate home orchard fruit, since you're not likely to find them anywhere else. Wish me luck growing pawpaw trees from seed!