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Sep 18, 2007 07:56 PM

Pawpaw seeds - just how poisonous are they?

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?

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

      12 Replies
      1. re: piccola

        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

          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

            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

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

          2. re: Joe Blowe

            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

              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

                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

                  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

                    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. re: krandy21784

                    I just spent most of the morning trying to make PawPaw muffins from a recipe. It was difficult to get the pulp seperated from the skin and seeds. After eating a couple, my stomach doesn't feel so good. Hope I'm not allergic to PawPaws. Don't think I will try eating PawPaws again.

                    1. re: CarolynHumburg

                      Your paw paws were likely unripe - I've gotten a stomach ache when I didn't wait. They also can be scooped out with a spoon and deseeded in seconds when ripe. They should be very fragrant and slightly to quite soft. Color is not the easiest indicator - they can be green blushing to yellow, black splotched, orange, or even entirely brown or black. The smell test is best - when they smell good they are. Please try again - they are a delicious fruit, custard without the work.

            2. re: piccola

              The papaya is tropical and resembles a melon. Smaller ones come from Hawaii and big ones from Mexico and the Caribbean. The sumptious sensuous fruit is well-known to Caribbean tourists because it is often featured on hotel breakfast buffets with slices of lime, yum. The pawpaw is native to the United States mainland. The small fruits resemble rotten bananas. Enjoy.

            3. 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. The original comment has been removed
                1. 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.