Bennett Spring State Park’s 4th annual pawpaw contest came to an end with Samuel Angst bringing in the largest pawpaw. Angst found the fruit in Pulaski County.

For his efforts, Angst received a fly rod and case, camp cooker, digital scale and a water filtration bottle.

Missouri’s attraction to the fruit dates back to when Native Americans wove the inner bark into fibers for cloth. The fruits were also eaten by people, and animals, such as foxes, opossums, squirrels, quail, turkey, song birds and raccoons love them, too.

“Pickin’ up pawpaws” was a fall activity for many early settlers in Missouri. The tree’s fruit grows in clusters, ripening in September and October. Shaped like a short stout banana, pawpaws are nicknamed “poor man’s banana.” It only has a shelf life of a few days, but if refrigerated can last a few weeks. Pawpaws exceed apples, peaches and grapes in nutritional value, with more vitamins, minerals, amino acids and food energy. As a native tree, it blooms in early spring and is the exclusive larval host plant of the zebra swallowtail caterpillar. The flower is purplish, about two inches in size. Keep an eye out for the flower in spring and return in the fall to find pawpaws!

Bennett Spring State Park is located at 26250 Highway 64A in Lebanon. For more information, call 417-532-3925.

For more information on Missouri state parks and historic sites, visit mostateparks.com. Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.