Herbs & Plants,  Nutrition

My Upsetting Experience with Paw Paw Fruit

I love fruit and never met a piece of fruit I didn’t like until recently.  Before I go into my upsetting experience with paw-paw fruit, let me first say everybody is different.  What one person can digest well, another person might not be able to digest at all.  I’ll be documenting my own personal experience with paw paw as well as similar reactions others have had to this fruit.  I will then leave it to your discretion whether or not you want to try paw paw for yourself.  If you’ve already been eating it and you’ve had no reactions to the fruit that’s wonderful.  I still invite you to continue reading just in case you know someone who could use this information.

A New Fruit To Me

It’s exciting coming across a new fruit or vegetable, especially one that’s native to this country.  So imagine my delight when at my local farmers market I walked by a gentleman selling something I had never seen before.   On his table were greenish colored, oval shaped objects some of them still hanging off branches.  Intrigued, I asked the man what it was, he replied that it was paw paw fruit.  He told me paw paw is native to America and the taste of the fruit is a mixture between a banana and mango.   He said the texture is like custard  and went on to say that it even had a nickname of “custard apple”.  I was immediately sold by that description.  The gentleman picked out a real nice ripe paw paw for me.  Immediate thoughts of what I could do with the fruit started filling my head.  I happily left the market with my treasure.

Inspecting the Paw Paw

After putting up all my produce from the market, I took out the paw paw fruit to inspect it closely.  The smell of the paw paw was so fragrant even before cutting into it.  I cut it horizontally, took a spoon and dug in for a little taste.  The first taste was truly what the guy at the farmers market described.  The texture was like custard and the flavor was a cross between banana, pineapple and mango.  There was a slight bitter aftertaste.    I scooped out all the fruit pulp, separated the seeds and placed it in the fridge for my plans for it the next day.

Paw Paw Waffles

The next day I did a little research and found out that people make breads, cakes and pies with paw paw.   So I decided to make paw paw waffles!  I decided to use a banana waffle recipe and substitute bananas for the paw paw.    Since it was just me eating I made enough waffles for one person using all the paw paw.   The waffles smelled amazing because of the fruity smell of the paw paw fruit.  The taste was even better.

The After Effects

As soon as I ate the waffles my stomach started cramping up and I had slight nausea.  I didn’t think anything of it, I just associated it with the fact that I just pigged out on three big waffles and maybe I overstuffed myself.  After a trip to the restroom I felt a little bit better and went about my day however still not feeling that great.  The waffles were my first and only meal of the day which was around 1:00pm.  Later on still not feeling well I went to sleep around 11:00pm.  Sleep didn’t last long because I was awakened at 2am by a sharp pain in my stomach.   I rushed to the bathroom where I stayed for the next hour (it seemed like eternity) vomiting, sweating and having diarrhea.  I felt horrible and knew instantly it was the paw paw.   It couldn’t have been anything else.   After what seemed forever for my body to remove the paw paw from my system, I feel asleep.   When I woke up the first thing I did was go to my laptop to see if anyone else became sick after eating this fruit.  I found some interesting information.

Paw Paw Toxicity

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, paw paw fruit is indigenous to America specifically in the states of NJ, Wyoming, Texas, Colorado, Mississippi and Ohio.   Native Americans ate the fruit and used the bark to make fishing nets.  Lewis and Clark also ate the fruit during their expedition in 1810.  So this fruit has been around and has been eaten for centuries.  However what I also found out was that there are some people who have strong reactions to the fruit.

The USDA stated: “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).”

During my research I came upon a forum discussing paw paw intolerances.  Just like me there were people in the forum that became sick after eating paw paw, especially when it was cooked.  Here’s what someone from the University of Kentucky said on the forum:

“Stomach upset eating pawpaw seems worse in cooked pawpaw, and even worse in dried pawpaw/fruit leather- I have heard enough reports of people getting sick to their stomach eating pawpaw fruit leather that I would not recommend making it. We are not sure what causes this stomach upset though, we have speculated fatty acids that go rancid in the drying or heating process but that is just a guess. Also some people can have allergies or sensitivities to pawpaw.”

Paw Paw and Annonacin

Paw paw has high concentrations of a chemical property called annonacin. (2)   Annonacin can have toxic effects on the nervous system.  It has also been reported to cause Parkinson type symptoms.  From what I’ve read someone would have to eat tons of paw paw in order for the annonacin properties to effect them.  But again there are certain people who may be super sensitive and it might not take a huge amount of paw paw to upset their system.

Final Thoughts

I’ve researched enough sites to know what happened to me doesn’t happen to everyone when they eat paw paw fruit.  Lots of people eat the paw paw raw and cooked with no problems.  Some people like me are just more sensitive to the properties of the fruit.  For those that can eat it without any symptoms, paw paw has some great benefits.  It’s known to be high in protein, antioxidants and vitamins A & C. (3)   There’s also reports that paw paw has anti-cancer properties due to the acetogenins in the fruit.  These acetogenins can rob the cancer cells of the energy it needs to survive.(4)

My experience with paw paw has ruined me from ever wanting to try it again.  As a matter of fact it was even challenging looking at pictures of the fruit without having flashbacks. Ha ha   From now on I’ll continue to stick with another fruit also known as paw paw….papaya. 🙂

If anyone has tried paw paw otherwise known as “poor mans banana” please comment below, I’m curious to know if anyone else has had reactions similar to mine.










  • Joanna

    My sister in law and I picked a bunch of pawpaw at a park last week. We ate from a few raw ones as we gathered. I didn’t have a reaction. The next day we made pawpaw bread by substituting the bananas in our banana bread recipe for pawpaw pulp. A few hours after pulling it out of the oven we tried it. It was delicious!! I was so excited. But about two hours later I got sick and started throwing up. The other people that ate it with me didn’t feel well either, one had bad stomach cramps. I’m so disappointed because it was so delicious, but I don’t think I’ll be having pawpaw ever again.

    • Desiree

      Thank you for sharing your experience! I’m so sorry you got sick! Like you I thought pawpaw was so delicious but after baking with it, I don’t even want to eat it raw. 🙁

  • Harold

    So, I live in central Ohio near OSU and I have consumed Paw Paws since age 9 (like over 70 years) all over Ohio & I have grown Paw Paws trees in my yard.
    Every once in a while I will get a intestinal/bowel reaction and that generally occurs early on in the season & I assume it is because I have not had the fruit for a while.
    Paw Paws ripen past their prime & spoil quickly (48-72 hours quickly), And not all trees are the same due to type of Paw Paw and the soil & water conditions differ.
    Once that ripening process gets past a certain point the more likely there may be a reaction and the closer you get to the skin or seed is the point your taste buds will sense a change in the taste.
    At that point it’s sorta a chicken or egg kinda guess as to a cause because there are issues with where the fruit fell on the ground and what it came in contact with as well as a fungus that creates those black spots on the skin of a Paw Paw as it is on the tree.
    It’s Basically A Wild Fruit, Out In The Open, Usually Unwashed When Consumed, So There Are Many Factors That Can Get Overlooked.
    I don’t have a clear answer except to say the outer skin changes taste at some point to something akin to a tobacco like taste when over ripe and the seeds may add to that as well.
    In my world of taste, When you get a Paw Paw at the right point, You are Good To Go.
    But, Too Much Of A Good Thing ? Not Sure About….
    I Enjoy them as a novel short term seasonal dessert, As far as Paw Paw as a medicine, I have heard things that I wonder about.
    But Then, I Heard Last Week It Was OK To Inject Disinfectant Too, Sooo Go Figure… : )

    • Desiree

      Thanks for your comment Harold! I’m thinking when I ate my Paw Paw it was spoiled already. Because it was very ripe.

    • Birgit

      I am so glad I found this post and the replies! We finally have an amazing crop of pawpaw fruit on our two trees this year. I didn’t have a reaction for the first, very ripe one. But the second fruit I ate, a day later, was much more firm. Several hours after eating it a slight stomach ache and diarrhea hit.
      So I have hope that the next ripe one will be no problem. I liked that Harold pointed out the many unknowns when eating this fruit.
      I certainly will not try to use it for cooking 😉
      Thanks again!

  • Lindsay Erben

    I grew up as a kid eating paw paw and was so excited to plant three trees in my yard. After the first year one grew a paw paw and I ate it as soon as it was ready. I only had a few scoops of it raw and an hour later almost fell down shaking, vomiting, strong stomach cramps, heart palpitations, dry mouth, and the worst migraine ever. Threw up until there wasn’t anything in my stomach and I’m sure it was the paw paw. I was planning out a trip to the ER and how I would explain a paw paw, but it subsided after a few hrs. I won’t be eating the fruit ever again. At least the trees are beautiful!

  • Joe

    This is interesting. I have never had much cooked paw paw. I have had paw paw beer and paw paw ice cream which were both amazing and no adverse affects. I have also had “overripe” pawpaw, and honestly it was one of the best tasting paw paw I have ever tried. I picked it up off of the ground and it was so ripe that probably 1/4 of it felt like liquid was inside. I also always suck all the fruit off of the seeds. Personally, I suspect this is an entirely personal reaction like anything else.

    Eating my first paw paw in the wild was one of the best experiences of my life.

    I don’t discount anyone’s experiences, but I thought I would share my experience for those that have not yet tried any paw paw. For me it was entirely worth it. Life changing really.

  • Miggs

    Ate some homemade paw paw bread (about 2 slices) that my mom made this morning. Oh my… couldn’t leave the bathroom. Felt like vomiting but only had diarrhea (several times). Lots of cramping and bloating. I ate some raw paw paw at their house yesterday with no ill effects. Now, I don’t know if it was the paw paw that did it or I know my mom likes to cook with sugar-free sweeteners, but reading all these makes me think it was the fruit. I have not felt pain like that since I had an actual stomach virus years ago!!

  • Stephanie S

    I tried paw paw at a party this evening. About an hour after eating it, I felt nauseous and light headed. Luckily,
    I had a nausea pill with me and that portion subsided, but I had wicked cramps after with a pounding headache. I went to bed feeling awful and woke up in the middle of the night to take emergency trips to the bathroom and am still experiencing the cramps. My body is definitely angry! (And is currently.) I googled the paw paw effects after I ate the fruit and again during the night…apparently I was too late to avoid the miserable results. I am praying that this will pass soon! Never again. 😢

  • Susan

    I had my first pawpaw today and about 1-2 hours later had horrendous cramps, nausea and diarrhea. The pawpaw was not overripe and I didn’t eat near the seeds or skin, or eat very much of it, maybe about half a pawpaw. I ate it raw.

    I’ve been curious about the pawpaw for a long time. I’m a vegan living in Iowa and the idea of a sweet juicy fruit growing locally is intriguing.

    I’m glad that I satisfied my curiosity, but I have no desire to ever eat one of those things again!

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