Introducing the Tropical-Tasting Pawpaws Fruit

Neal Peterson provides an introduction to the tropical-tasting pawpaws fruit, and discusses his push to get the fruit into the national supermarkets.

| March/April 2007


Neal Peterson, of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, spends a lot of time in his pawpaw orchard in nearby Berryville, Virginia.


Learn about the tropical-tasting pawpaws fruit. 

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia — Neal Peterson’s dream is to take the humble tropical-tasting pawpaws fruit, with its delicate fruit flesh, and see it transformed into an ingredient available in every supermarket.

"The first time I tasted a pawpaw, it knocked my socks off," says Peterson, a St. Albans, West Virginia, native who at the time was in graduate school studying plant genetics at West Virginia University in Morgantown. "My question was, why is this out here in the woods and not in the grocery store?"

While Peterson's push for pawpaw popularity, which began shortly after his initial encounter with the fruit during a hike in Morgantown in 1976, hasn't yet reached the mass market, it is bearing fruit.

He's meeting with success in his efforts to breed the best possible pawpaw, one with fewer seeds and a firm flesh that could better handle shipping to consumers. And his decades-long work has begun to gain national attention.

Since 1981, Peterson has tended more than a dozen varieties of pawpaw trees collected from the wild as well as century-old orchards. These days, he regularly makes the trek from his home in Harpers Ferry, where he’s lived and worked as a real estate appraiser since 2001, to his pawpaw orchard in nearby Berryville, Virginia.

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