Jessica Damiano Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnist

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 25 years experience in radio, television, print and online media. She has worked on Newsday's interactive endeavors since 1994, and currently is Deputy Editor overseeing Newsday.com's Lifestyle and Entertainment coverage. Jessica enjoys toiling in her garden -- a never-finished work in progress -- and helping local gardeners solve their horticultural problems in her Garden Detective column, which appears every Sunday in Newsday. The Garden Detective blog was awarded a Press Club of Long Island Society of Professional Journalists Online Features Reporting Award. Jessica lives in Glen Head, NY, with her husband John, daughters Justine and Julia, dogs Maddie and Miguel, and a whole bunch of perennials, vegetable plants and weeds. Ask a question Show More

These pyramid-shaped trees also are called Hoosier banana, poor man's banana and false banana. They have large drooping dark green leaves that measure up to 12 inches long and 5 inches wide. Interesting but off-smelling, 2-inch-wide maroon flowers grow directly from branches in spring, giving way to heavy 3- to 5-inch elongated, banana-flavored fruits that grow in clusters and become dark and crinkled as they ripen.

The highly nutritious, creamy fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals and amino acids and can be eaten out of hand or cooked in any recipes calling for bananas.

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A lone tree will not bear fruit; two different cultivars are necessary to ensure the necessary cross-pollination.

Look for container-grown trees - as opposed to those that have been field grown, dug up and balled and burlapped - because pawpaws have a long taproot that can be damaged when removed from the ground.

Trees thrive in well-drained, slightly acidic (5.5-7 pH) soil in a sunny to partly sunny area that offers some protection from wind. Provide a 20-20-20 fertilizer monthly in April, May and June.

Protect young transplants from direct sunlight for the first year or two by setting a light-filtering screen over them until they're established. There are no special care requirements, but you'll have to prune out suckers regularly to retain a tree form and prevent a thicket.