Papaya is a tropical fruit known for its sweet taste and numerous health benefits. Learn about how to eat papaya and why you should try it ahead!
What Is Papaya?
Papaya has bright orange flesh, which is sweet, and becomes sweeter as it ripens. The seeds of the papaya have a slightly peppery flavor.
Growers cultivate papaya trees in various locations worldwide, with Mexico and South America being the most prominent regions. It is also a common crop in Hawaii and has been for a long time.
Farmers must harvest the fruit before it ripens. So, they pick it when its skin is green or yellow-green and then it will turn fully yellow as it matures.
The flesh inside of the fruit is usually orange, but there are some varieties that are pink or red. Interestingly, while the seeds are edible, the skin is not.
The fruit can grow to be very large, up to twenty pounds! The average papaya, however, is roughly six inches long, pear-shaped, and weighs roughly two pounds.
People commonly know this fruit as papaya, but it also goes by other names such as pawpaw, mamao, and tree melon.
The benefits of papaya include its rich content of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can aid digestion, boost immunity, and promote skin health.
To enjoy fully ripe papaya with yellow skin, simply cut it open and eat it raw. Taking a bite of the skin is not good for you, but the sweet flesh within is a delicious snack. Some recipes actually call for a green papaya, which is the unripe form of the fruit.
Cooks consider unripe papayas a vegetable due to the white seeds and the requirement for cooking before consumption. Asian cuisines use this ingredient more commonly than Western ones.
Health Benefits of Papaya
Papaya is a nutrient-dense fruit that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making it an excellent addition to a healthy diet.
One of the most well-known benefits of papaya is its digestive properties. The fruit contains an enzyme called papain, which can help break down proteins and aid in digestion.
This makes papaya particularly useful for those who experience digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
In addition to its digestive benefits, papaya is also an excellent source of vitamin C, which can help boost the immune system and protect against infections.
The fruit also contains other antioxidants such as beta-carotene and lycopene, which can help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation.
Some studies have even suggested that papaya may have anti-cancer properties, as it contains compounds that can inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Overall, incorporating papaya into your diet can provide numerous health benefits and help support overall well-being.
How To Eat Papaya?
Preparing fresh papaya is particularly easy, and requires little to no effort if you have the right tools. Because it’s safe to eat without cooking, all you need to do is slice the papaya, and mind out for the skin.
An easy method for eating papaya could be to slice it in half lengthways, before removing the seeds. Then, take a melon baller or a spoon, scoop the flesh directly from the body of the fruit, and eat it.
To be a little fancier in your papaya-eating habits, you could skin your papaya, firstly, before slicing it lengthways and removing the seeds. Then, slice into wedges, and eat.
This could be particularly good if you had a sauce or spice that you wanted to dip your papaya into. If you’re serving fresh papaya in either of these ways, drizzling a little lime juice over the top can enhance the flavor dramatically, give it a go!
Perhaps even try this trick with other juices or spices, such as lime or lemon juice.
How To Cook Papaya?
Cooks use papaya in a wide variety of dishes due to its versatility as an ingredient.
People can eat ripe papayas raw as a snack or light breakfast. Alternatively, they can prepare it by baking, sauteing, stir-frying, or pureeing, depending on the recipe.
This versatility means it lends itself to a number of different cuisines. Personally, I’d like to try it as part of a salsa!
I made a recipe a while ago which involved searing mango before blending it with other, more typical, salsa ingredients to make a sweet, spicy sauce. Papaya sounds like it would be delicious in that setting!
The other parts of the fruit also have interesting uses. Because of the relative strength of the skin, you can hollow out papaya, wash it, and then have a small, biodegradable, single-use bowl.
This could be particularly good for parties where you’re serving up small portions of finger food. The papaya shell could also be a fun way to serve a tropical fruit salad.
Can You Eat Papaya Seeds?
The seeds are also versatile. Cooks find the slightly peppery flavor of dried and processed papaya seeds ideal for use as a substitute for peppercorns.
They’ll offer a slightly different flavor to true black pepper, of course, but it may be an interesting spice to have in your kitchen!
How To Tell If A Papaya Is Ripe?
When buying papaya, make sure to select fruit that is mostly yellow with a little bit of green on the surface.
That way, you can let it come to full ripeness at home. When ripe, the fruit should be firm, but yield to gentle pressure. It should also feel surprisingly heavy for its size and smooth skin.
Ripe papaya should have a sweet aroma, though avoid buying overripe fruit. That fruit will be overly soft and is only worth buying if you intend to puree it and use it immediately.
Papaya is an incredibly popular fruit the world over, and you’re sure to find it if you head down to your local market. There are plenty of recipes online, so give one or two of them a go!
Where To Buy Papaya?
Papaya grows mostly in Hawaii, where the climate remains steady year-round, allowing for year-round growth, harvesting, and purchasing.
The price may fluctuate, however, depending on the season. It may seem a little expansive compared to other fruits, but consider the journey it has taken to get to your kitchen.
The peak seasons for Hawaiian papayas on US markets are April through June, and October through December. A number of markets may carry chopped papaya in juice year-round in the produce department. Papaya nectar is also available, canned, and bottled, though its placement in a market can vary.
In North Central Florida, where I live, I have many papaya trees growing in my garden. Although we live further north, papaya grows here as one of the few tropical fruits.
More About Fruits:
- Tuna Fruit
- Naseberry Sapodilla
- 10 Amazing Benefits Of Noni
- Amazing Benefits Of Lemon
- Key Lime
- Loquat Fruit
- Mangosteen Fruit
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