Kentucky State University has the only full-time pawpaw research program in the world as part of the KSU Land Grant Program. We spoke with Sheri Crabtree, Horticulture Research and Extension Associate, and Dr. Kirk Pomper, Director of Land Grant Programs/Professor - Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who gave us a tour of the impressive pawpaw orchard and talked about the many things the program accomplishes including improving propagation methods, developing orchard management recommendations, conducting regional variety trials, understanding fruit ripening & storage techniques, and germplasm collection & characterization of genetic diversity.
Jody and I had a blast out at the research & development farm in Frankfort, Kentucky. Jody had reached out to them previously, and the lovely people at the program were happy to mail him some of the best available paw paw seeds, free of charge! (If you're interested in getting paw paw seeds, don't hesitate to reach out to the program!)
We started off with a tour of the orchard itself where 15+ year old trees have been bred to bear varieties of pawpaw fruits, that they harvest to study and also to produce canned fruit, jams, ice cream, and other food! We also learned that bees actually do not pollinate paw paw fruit! Flies are actually the type of insect that paw paw trees depend on.
We got to sit down inside the facility and talk about their paw paw program which has been going for 20+ years now! We were excited to learn there are over 30 paw paw cultivars, just like there are many varieties of apples!
The most exciting part was definitely when, after saying our thank yous and goodbye, were told to "feel free to grab as many as you can carry on your way out!"
We happily obliged :)
We look forward to returning to the Harold Benson Research Farm in the future, to learn more about all the wonderful things they have going on (not even mentioning the chance of another paw paw haul)!
If you liked this, check out the time we went on an excursion into Kentucky forests to find and taste paw paw fruit with our friend Rosemary the Forest Steward!
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