Also Known as
Papaw, Papita, Pawpaw
All season, All reason fruit. Deliciously sweet with musky undertones and a soft, butter-like consistency, it is no wonder the papaya is reputably called the "fruit of the angels". Once considered quite exotic, they can now be found in markets throughout the year.
Papayas are spherical or pear-shaped fruits, large, fleshy, hollow berry upto 50-60 cm in diameter and usually weigh from ½ kg to 2 kg. Inside the inner cavity of the fruit are black, round seeds encased in a gelatinous-like substance. Papaya's seeds are edible, although their peppery flavor is somewhat bitter.
The fruit has thin smooth skin. It is dark green in colour initially but as it ripens, it changes to bright yellowish or orange. Inside the thick juicy flesh has a soft melting quality and may be yellow or orange, It has a delicate aroma and delicious flavour.
Enjoy this fruit chopped, pureed, cubed or sliced, whichever way you prefer. It is usually thicky grated in salads and can be thinly grated to make fruit based dips.
Papaya should be peeled first using a peeler or sharp knife. Take a sharp knife, slice it from the top to remove the stem and then cut it into half from the centre. Cut the half portion into another half and remove the seeds from centre. Chop ingredients by cutting them in small pieces approximately ¼ inch in diameter, although the chopped food doesn't need to be exactly the same size. If the recipe calls for the ingredients to be "coarsely chopped," make the pieces slightly larger
After peeling the papaya, section it into half and then using the melon baller, scoop out the papaya into balls and use them in dessert or salad. If you are adding it to a fruit salad, you should do so just before serving as it tends to cause the other fruits to become very soft.
Dice or cube ingredients by cutting them into uniform strips. Line up the strips with your non-working hand and cut them into square pieces. Cube them as per the recipe's need regarding the size of the cubes, (for example, "cut into ½-inch cubes").
After peeling the papaya, section it into half and chop it pieces. Blend it into the grinder till it forms a thick and smooth paste. Water is not required to grind but can be added later to thin the consistency. Sugar or honey can be added to sweeten, add as per the natural sweetness of the papaya. Papaya milkshake can be made using the puree or puree can be topped on desserts or custards or fruit dish can be used as a sauce for ice cream, a topping for pancakes, or stirred into yoghurt. Pureed papaya added to a marinade will give a tropical flavor.
Peel the papaya and then slash it into half. Slice using a sharp knife by cutting vertically across the cutting board. Slice them thinly or thickly as the recipe requirement, can used as a garnish or for sweet recipes or custard.
How to Select
Fresh papaya fruit is available year-round in most markets. Select fruits that are mostly yellowish - orange with a tint of green and let them fully ripen at home. If you want to speed this process, place them in a paper bag. When fully ripe, the skin is bright orange. Ripe fruit should be firm yet yield to gently pressure, feel heavy for its size and have smooth skin with no blemishes.
As with most fruits, use your nose. The ripe papaya should have a sweet aroma. Avoid fruits that are overly soft unless you intend to puree them and use immediately. If you want to eat them within a day of purchase, choose papayas that have reddish-orange skin and are slightly soft to the touch. Those that have patches of yellow color will take a few more days to ripen.
Papayas that are totally green or overly hard should not be purchased, unless you are planning on cooking them, or unless you want to use green papayas in a cold dish like an Asian salad, as their flesh will not develop its characteristic sweet juicy flavor.
Papaya nectar is available canned and bottled. Some markets also carry chopped fruit in juice in the cold case of the produce department near the juices. The peppery seeds are edible, yet the skin is not.
" Papayas can be used many diverse ways. They can be relished as it is, added to a fruit salad or to a host of different recipes.
" One of the easiest and most delightful ways to eat papaya is to eat it just like a melon. After washing the fruit, cut it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and then eat it with a spoon. For a little extra zest, you can squeeze lemon or lime juice on top.
" While most people discard the big black seeds, they are actually edible and have a delightful peppery flavor. They can be chewed whole or blended into a creamy salad dressing, giving it a peppery flavor.
" Papaya smoothies are very easy to make. Just blend ripe papaya with banana and your choice of fruits such as passion fruit or orange. Add raw milk or soya milk or yoghurt for additional nutrition and flavour.
" Mix diced papaya, cilantro, jalapeno peppers and ginger together to make a unique salsa that goes great with shrimp, scallops and halibut.
" Season green papaya with cinnamon, honey, and butter. Bake for a delightfully different side dish.
" Fruits that go well with papaya: Mango, kiwifruit, and most berries.
How to Store
Ripe papayas should be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within one or two days, so you can enjoy their maximum flavor. Papayas will ripen within a few days at room temperature, and even faster if you put them in a paper bag. Once ripe, this fruit will quickly turn to mush if not properly stored. Place the sectioned or half fruit in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, and it should last about a day or two.
" Papayas offer not only the luscious taste and sunlit color of the tropics, but are rich sources of antioxidant nutrients such as carotenes, vitamin C and flavonoids; the B vitamins, folate and pantothenic acid; and the minerals, potassium and magnesium; and fiber.
" Together, these nutrients promote the health of the cardiovascular system and also provide protection against colon cancer.
" In addition, papaya contains the digestive enzyme, papain, which is used like bromelain, a similar enzyme found in pineapple, to treat sports injuries, roundworm and allergies.
" Ripe fruit consumed regularly corrects habitual constipation and bleeding piles.
" Juice or Pulp of papaya is regarded highly beneficial for skin disorders, when applied externally. It prevents corns, warts, pimples, removes freckles or brown spots due to sunlight exposure. It acts as a cleanser to skin and adds a glow to the face.
" Fresh juice taken with honey soothes the irritated throat, helps in tonsils.