HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >

Pawpaw seeds - just how poisonous are they?

Full tummy Sep 18, 2007 07:56 PM

I have recently purchased a couple of pawpaw trees. We aren't talking papaya here, but the pawpaw that grows and produces fruit all the way up here in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

I understand the seeds are poisonous, but I'm trying to find out how scared I need to be about accidentally ingesting one (or more).

Anyone know?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Joe Blowe RE: Full tummy Sep 19, 2007 09:18 AM

    Not poisonous. Just toxic ;-)


    "While many people enjoy the taste of pawpaw, some individuals become sick after eating the fruit. Skin rash, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea can develop. In other cases, individuals may be allergic to the leaves or the fruit skin (Peterson, 1991).

    "Many tissues of this tree, especially bark, leaves, and seeds, contain a variety of alkaloids, phenolic acids, proanthocyanidins, tannins, flavinoids, and acetogenins. While these chemicals can cause allergic reactions, some of them are anticarcenogens and still others have natural or botanical pesticide qualities (McLaughlin and Hui, 1993; Zhao et al., 1994.)"

    Don't worry...

    1. p
      piccola RE: Full tummy Sep 19, 2007 05:14 PM

      As much as I hate to show my ignorance, I have to ask: what's the difference between papaya and pawpaw?

      9 Replies
      1. re: piccola
        Joe Blowe RE: piccola Sep 19, 2007 06:08 PM

        Just a search away...


        "This page refers to the U.S. pawpaw in the genus Asimina. In some other parts of the world, the name pawpaw is applied to the unrelated tropical fruit papaya (Carica papaya)."

        1. re: Joe Blowe
          Full tummy RE: Joe Blowe Sep 20, 2007 09:41 AM

          Joe Blowe, you are full of answers. Thank you. However, I am still left wondering, like, am I going to die if I actually ingest one? Or will I just get the runs? So I called the nursery where I bought the trees, and they couldn't quite tell me either. They did, however, reassure me that it's not easy to swallow the seeds; they're not like watermelon seeds, and you'd have to try hard to get them down. Given that, I'm not quite so scared anymore, but if anyone has a definitive answer, I'd still like to know.

          1. re: Full tummy
            shallots RE: Full tummy Sep 20, 2007 09:51 AM

            Not a definitive answer, but I can tell you that pawpaw seeds pass through deer without any visible changes.
            Yes, we have deer and pawpaws. And the two meet in fall.

            1. re: shallots
              ricepad RE: shallots Oct 30, 2009 06:52 PM

              I've seen deer browsing heavily on poison oak, too, and I wouldn't eat THAT.

          2. re: Joe Blowe
            ricepad RE: Joe Blowe Sep 20, 2007 10:15 AM

            So this is what Pretty Little Susie (of nursery rhyme fame) picks up and puts in her pockets way down yonder? I never thought there really WAS something called a 'pawpaw'.

            1. re: ricepad
              Will Owen RE: ricepad Sep 20, 2007 04:34 PM

              My gardening grandpa had a pawpaw tree. He and my dad and I loved them, though my grandma thought they were "hillbilly food" and wouldn't allow them in the house. As near as I can recollect, they were about as much like a papaya as a Japanese persimmon is like an American native one - same KIND of flavor, more or less, but a lot less intense and/or challenging...though I guess if you were allergic, they'd be challenging enough!

              1. re: Will Owen
                krandy21784 RE: Will Owen Sep 28, 2007 03:14 PM

                I grew uo eating Pawpaws in Missouri and cannot think of anyone that got sick. We did peel them which you have to do with a papaya. The skins of papayas can cause allergic reactions to some.

                1. re: krandy21784
                  nelson20vt RE: krandy21784 Feb 4, 2009 02:41 PM

                  Wich Nursery did you buy it from? I too just bought some pawpaw trees and also live in Toronto, did you plant them outside already and if so did they survive the first winter?

                  1. re: nelson20vt
                    Full tummy RE: nelson20vt Oct 30, 2009 04:53 PM

                    Hey, sorry I didn't reply; I didn't see your question till now--I'm assuming your question was directed to me. I bought them from Grimo Nut Nursery. Where did you buy yours?

        2. Full tummy RE: Full tummy Sep 28, 2007 04:51 PM

          I have since eaten a pawpaw given to me by the nursery, at the time of my purchase. As it turns out, the seeds are quite big, sort of like a kidney bean with a tail on it, so I'm much less worried than before. The pawpaw had the texture of an avocado and the flavour of a caramelized banana-mango cross, or something like that. It was unique, but also delicious. I am very much looking forward to my future pawpaw harvests!

          1. g
            goody223 RE: Full tummy Mar 11, 2009 07:17 PM

            I'm no Doctor, and i'm not advising nor recommending. A friend of mine once told me she cured her gastritis by eating a good amount of raw paw paw seeds.That was her story and i never went into the details as it sounded weird to me and she said the taste was terrible. My own true experience is with the raw leaves of a paw paw tree. I used to relief my "high fever" by harvesting green fresh paw paw leaves, wash them and squish them in cold water and drink as much as i could until my fever will get off. It was so fast a relief and i did that when i was in the tropics in Africa where malaria is common.

            1. s
              someoneWhoTried RE: Full tummy Oct 30, 2009 01:12 PM

              Well, Full Tummy, I'm pretty certain it is too late for you to read this, but I had an experience recently that I wanted to share. Knowing the seeds to have a reputation of being toxic, I decided to try one. First, it won't kill you. Unless you happen to be in very poor health anyway. Secondly, it will make you regret trying it. The seed peels remarkably like a fresh chestnut. The meat of the seed is sort of in segments inside the hull. It has a nice nutty flavor. However the brown fuzzy skin inside the seed hull separates these segments of nut-meat and it's nearly impossible to separate all of it. It went down just fine. I did this a little after lunch. By bedtime I just didn't feel real great but not bad enough I could put my finger on it. Sometime in the night my stomach hurt. By the next morning I was friends with the porcelain thrown but by lunch the next day I was fine. But there isn't much meat in one seed. So if you ate like a planter's peanut box full, you would probably want your stomach pumped.

              2 Replies
              1. re: someoneWhoTried
                Will Owen RE: someoneWhoTried Oct 30, 2009 02:14 PM

                Sounds to me like your stomach would take care of that all by itself!

                About those deer - can't rely on what other creatures eat unscathed to tell us what we can eat or not. My dog eats stuff that'd send me to bed for a week, but I could kill her with chocolate.

                1. re: someoneWhoTried
                  Full tummy RE: someoneWhoTried Oct 30, 2009 04:57 PM

                  O.K. someoneWhoTried. That does help since my pawpaw trees are still growing and I haven't harvested a single one yet. Probably won't for another couple of years. Please change your handle to "someonewhowon'ttryagain", and be healthy!!!

                Show Hidden Posts