"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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The Science of Paw-Paw Pulp Extraction
Copyright © 2008 by Bill Scifres

I did some experimenting a couple of weeks ago with separating the numerous big black and dark seeds and green (black sploched) skin from the beautiful and tasty lighter pulp (paste) of the paw-paw and think my findings may be useful to others.
As you may know, the paw-paw (a k a Indiana banana) and the sickening sweet pulp has a number of culinary uses, including cakes, pies and cookies, not to mention a nice snack in the woods.
At any rate, I have known for many years that extracting paw-paw pulp can be worse than unsweetened lemon juice, but I hail from a long line of users of this fruit. So naturally, early on in life, I learned how to pulp them . . . (and it isn’t easy, no matter how you cut the cake).

Always before, I would adhere closely to my “upbringing” and would simply squash several of the fruits and plop skin, seed, and all into my conical colander and run the whole works through with the pulp. Even bits of the hard seeds would find their way into the pulp . . . even make it darker.

I always figured there must be a better way . . . to exclude the green-black skins and black seeds from the edible pulp.

So, with something like 100 beautiful paw-paws at hand, I decided to separate the three (skin, seeds, and fruit) before I ran the pulp through the colander so I would have pure pulp with which to work.

Thus, with a very sharp, thin-bladed knife (four-inch blade), I cradled a ripe paw-paw (made soft by a gentle rolling motion against a cutting board) in my left hand, trimming the exterior skin with the knife in the other hand and placing the skin strips into a bowl. Then I  squashed it good as I placed the pulp and seeds into a second bowl. When the bowl was full, I spooned out the seeds into a third bowl. 

I ran the pulp through the colander (seeds and skin strips removed). When the pulp was through (there always was some remaining in the colander), I extracted more pulp from seeds, but avoided grinding the seeds up into the pulp.

Then the seeds were planted and the pulp was frozen in one-cup containers for later use.

What happened to the skin strips (they contain a lot of pulp)? Let’s just say my den has the distinct, pleasant odor of a winery.

ARE PIGNUTS EDIBLE?--This is an e-mail question we received last week. I must say no, if I can use taste tests I have done on this nut over the years. I must explain, however, that I have done my taste tests believing that pignut was just another name for bitternut. That is not true. They are separate, but similar species.

Foresters of the Vallonia (Ind.) nursery tell me that the nuts are not edible (probably because they are bitter) and my tests over the years tend to corroborate this thinking. I am wondering, however, if I could have been testing bitternuts.

Sally Weeks, a co-author of  “Native Trees of the Midwest,” tells me that the two nuts may be separated by comparing their physical features. The pignut nut is as much as one-and-a-half inches long. The bitternut is rarely longer than one inch. 

Leaf structure comparison is not always conclusive, but the buds are. The bitternut has an elongated, yellowish-brown bud, while the pignut bud is shorter and tan.

The hard inner nuts of bitternut ordinarily do not completely lose their thin outer husks. 

DUCKS, GEESE--With seasons for ducks and Canada Geese both being at least temporarily open in North and South zones, hunters are having some success and are finding fairly good numbers of both. Seasons of the Ohio River Zone will open Saturday (Nov. 1).

With the exception of the North Zone, these seasons are short--a few days at most. Check waterfowl season closing dates on my web page under “Short Shots and Casts” on opening page of my website ( www.bayoubill.com ) or by calling the Division of Fish and Wildlife, 317-232-4080. 

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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