A paw paw looks sort of like a discolored mangled mango. When ripe they are greenish yellow with brown spots, and smell reminiscent of bananas forgotten in a hot car on a sunny summer day. Cut open, the flesh is securely attached to multiple dark brown seeds the size of lima beans. A paw paw doesn’t last long, and needs to be processed within two or three days of harvest, to avoid the rotting flesh smell they emit when over-ripe.
Black Bean Roasted Red Pepper Cilantro Salad
15 ounce can black beans (1 ½ cups)
1 cup peeled and sliced paw paw (one medium)
1 cup roasted red peppers – sliced
¼ cup cilantro leaves – torn
2-3 Tablespoons lime juice
1 Tablespoon sunflower or canola oil
1 clove garlic - crushed
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon chipotle puree
Combine beans, paw paw, peppers, and cilantro in a bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients in another bowl and gently toss with beans. Serve alongside quesadillas, with rice or quinoa, on top of tacos, on a bed of lettuce, or with tortilla chips as an appetizer.
In our neck of the woods we can get a little taste of tropical flavor with the miraculous Paw paw. These strange looking fruits, native to the eastern United States, grow on trees and are the largest edible fruit indigenous to this area. Not only do they survive, but they thrive without much care, growing just as well in the shade as the sun. Legend has it that Lewis and Clark would have perished on their expedition if these sticky sweet, mango, banana-like, fruits had not sustained them through areas where other food was scarce.
Possibly because they are so fleeting, I am infatuated with paw paws. As harvest season begins in early September I search out the fruit and concoct new dishes to feature it’s flavor. This year I focused on salads. Just ripe fruits taste and act much like a mango. The flesh is still firm enough to cut into chunks and toss with black beans and roasted red peppers. Adding a little smokey chipotle pepper puree makes me feel like I am sitting on a beach on the coast of Mexico.
If you can get your hands on a paw paw – make this salad now. Otherwise copy down the recipe and wait until paw paw season comes around next year. It only lasts about a month!