The papaya fruit is the fruit of many names…papaya…paw paw…papaw…tree melon…and mamao. While indigenous to Mexico, you can find papayas in nearly every tropical climate, including Florida.
When are papayas available?
Papayas are at their peak during the summer and fall months. However, as they are now grown all over the world, you can find good papayas year round.
What does a papaya look like?
Papayas are divided into two types: Mexican and Hawaiian papayas. Generally, you’ll find Hawaiian papayas for sale in the United States. Hawaiian papaya trees grow to be less than 8 feet tall while Mexican papaya trees can easily grow larger.
The typical papaya is a narrow pear shape, yellow to green in color, and weighs approximately 1 lb. On the other hand, Mexican papayas are gigantic and can weigh up to 10 lbs! You likely won’t see these behemoths for sale at the Whole Foods.
Inside, the papaya meat is a bright pink to orange color with small black seeds. Papaya seeds are edible but some people find them to taste bitter.
However, it may be worth it to push through the seeds’ bitter taste.
Papaya seeds are chock-full of antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids. Translation? Less free radicals and lower triglyceride levels.
What do papayas taste like?
Papayas are described to have a mildly sweet taste, similar to cantaloupe. Ripe papayas also have a similar texture and consistency to cantaloupe in that they almost “melt in your mouth.” Many papaya lovers describe it as a buttery or creamy consistency.
It’s very important that papayas are eaten when ripe. Unripe papayas can have a feint odor and little to no flavor whatsoever.
In addition to the antioxidants provided in its seeds, papayas are a great source of Vitamin A and C. They also contain a nice boost of fiber for your diet.
What do they help?
Inflammation. Choline in papayas is known to help in reducing chronic inflammation. People that suffer from arthritis or autoimmune diseases should look into eating more papaya.
Digestion. How about some papain? Papain is an enzyme that helps with digestion. There’s a reason sales are so high for papaya supplements.
Cancer. Antioxidants have been said to reduce cancer risk and papayas have plenty of them in the way of beta-carotene.
Improved Vision. Prevent macular degeneration and promote better vision with the Vitamin A found in papayas.
How to Select
How you pick the perfect papaya depends on when you plan on eating it.
If you plan on eating it within a day, find a papaya that has an orange-reddish color. You’ll want to make sure that it is on the softer side as well.
Papayas that appear more yellow need several more days to ripen.
Papayas that are green need even more time and are not ready to eat.
Of course, as with any fruit, avoid pieces that are overly soft or bruised. Also, do not buy anything that shows signs of mold or mildew.
How to Prepare
Papayas can be used like melons in salads and recipes or eaten on their own. They’re easy to prepare:
- Wash your papaya
- Cut it lengthwise with a large knife
- Scoop out the seeds with a spoon
- Use a melon baller to create “papaya balls”; or
- Peel the skin and cut into wedges
Quick tip: squeeze some lime juice over the papaya for a special flavor treat.
Overall, the papaya fruit is extremely versatile and can be used in a nearly unlimited amount of ways.
Instead of the same old banana, try making a smoothie with papaya. Or, infuse your water with papaya for a refreshing change of pace.
How to Store
There is no one way in how to store papaya. It depends on whether it is already ripe or not.
Unripe papayas can be left out at room temperature. However, be careful as they tend to ripen fast and you could be left with a mushy mess.
Once ripe, or nearing ripeness, store your papayas in the refrigerator. For best results, place the entire papaya in a plastic bag and place in the fridge. It should last for approximately a week.
How to freeze papaya?
Follow our steps above in preparing your papaya. Then, cut it into pieces and place the pieces in a plastic freezer bag. For best results, pour in a mixture of sugar water (2 cups of water for every 1 cup of sugar). Your papaya should last up to 10 months in the freezer.
Just be warned though, thawed papaya will not return to its original consistency. You may not want to eat it separately, but use it for smoothies or in recipes.
Papaya Enzyme Supplements
We’ve seen more and more supplement manufacturers sell papaya enzyme complex supplements. Primarily, these papaya supplements are used to treat digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and constipation. If all natural, it may be worth giving a papaya supplement a try. Many of our readers have written to us telling us how they swear by their papaya supplements.
Just be careful, a recent study found a link between allergies to latex and allergies to various fruits, including papaya.
Go Buy Some Papaya
Now that papaya fruit isn’t such a mystery, it’s time to kick back at the patio table and enjoy some papaya slices.
If you have any questions, just let us know!