It’s hillbilly mango season in Missouri

ST. LOUIS – Tis the season for Hillbilly mangoes. The Midwest is proud of its unique fruit known as the “Paw Paw” or hillbilly mango.

These fruits are out of season September to October. Pawpaws offer a mix of banana and mango flavors with a pudding-like texture. They are typically found near rivers and streams, most commonly along the Mississippi River.

Resemble pawpaw plants small bushes or trees, belongs to the family of tropical plants. Their large leaves are clustered near the branch tips, giving them an umbrella-like appearance. These plants can reach a height of up to 30 feet. In deep shade they form thickets and rarely flower or fruit unless the canopy opens. When their leaves are crushed, they give off a pepper-like smell.

The use of these fruits has a long tradition among Native Americans. They often cultivated papaya trees to ensure a reliable source of food in the fall. For example, the Cherokee used the inner bark to make rope and cord, while the Louisiana tribes wove the inner bark into cloth.

The first documented reference to pawpaws can be traced back Hernando de Soto1541 Expedition in the Mississippi River Valley. Lewis and Clark also noted that they consumed this fruit during their historic journey. Early European settlers, eager to make use of papayas, experimented with making jams and puddings. However, they found that cooking the fruit changed its taste.

While collecting pawpaws for personal use is legal most areasit is not allowed in nature centers, conservation offices or conservation areas.

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