Papaya
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The most common Papaya we see in America are the fruits of the Carica Papaya plant. The Papaya is a member of the caricaceae family. All Papayas are in the order Brassicales, which includes capers, cabbages and mustard greens. This may explain the bitterness of the edible but peppery Papaya Seeds.

Papayas are sometimes also called "Papaw or Pawpaw," though the name is more common in Britain.

Papayas are originally from Northern South America, Central America and southern Mexico (especially Chiapas and Veracruz) where they were revered by the Latin American natives and cultivated since before the advent of the Mesoamerican civilizations.  

When Christopher Columbus had his first Papayas on his voyage in 1492, he reportedly called them the "fruit of the angels." Later Spanish and Portuguese explorers introduced the Papaya to the Western world and brought Papayas to many other of their subtropical domains (including India, the Philippines, and parts of Africa).

Early in the 20th Century, Papayas were introduced to the U.S. They have been cultivated in Hawaii since the 1920’s.

Season

Papaya trees are tropical and can produce fruit all year round. This is called a “Variable Season.” Papayas typically fruit between 6-9 months (in hot areas) or 9-11 months (in cooler areas) after they are planted. That being said, Papaya season is considered to be June through September because that is when North American Papaya growers tend to harvest.

Availability

Papaya is available all year long.

Cultivation

The papaya is a large, tree-like plant, with one stem growing from 16 to 33 feet tall (5 to 10 m). The large leaves, 20-28 inches in diameter (50-70 cm), that are arranged spirally near the top of the trunk. The flowers are similar in shape to the flowers of the Plumeria, but are much smaller and wax-like. They mature into the Papaya fruit.

On the plantation, Papayas grow quickly and fruit within three years. They are very sensitive to frost and standing water.

Production

In all, Papayas are produced in about 60 countries with most of the production coming from the developing world.

Today, the largest commercial producers of Papayas include: India (4,180,080 tons), Brazil (1,854,340 tons), Indonesia (958,251 tons) and the Dominican Republic (891,731 tons).

Papayas are picked when they are green so that they can be transported to markets around the globe in the two weeks that they require to ripen.

Varieties

The Papaya is a Tropical Fruit and we typically see the Tropical Papaya (yellow in color, smaller and sweeter) and the Mexican Papaya (orange in color, larger and blander) in domestic grocery stores. Green Papayas are actually just unripe versions of the two common types mentioned above.

There is another variety of Papaya, the Mountain Papaya, Caricaceae Vasconcellea pubescens), but unless we are in the Andes Mountains of Chile we probably won’t come across it.

Purchasing

Before buying a Papaya (s), visually inspect the fruit. Don’t buy Papaya that has visible mold or mildew growing on the base where the stem was. Smell the base. You should be able to smell the scent of Papaya. If it smells bad or fermented, the fruit is bad. A few black spots on the skin won’t affect the taste of the Papaya but you should avoid overly bruised product.

Depending on when you plan to serve your Papaya, you should check the color of the skin of the product. Green Papayas are unripe and usually overly hard. They should not be purchased unless you are planning to cook them or use them in an Asian dish. If you are searching for green Papayas for such a dish and can’t find them at the local grocery, try an Asian Market.

Slightly Green Papayas will ripen quickly in a day or two at room temperature. Placing them in a paper bag will speed up the process.

Papayas that are partly or completely Yellow (for Tropical Papayas) or Orange (for Mexican Papayas) are approaching ripeness. Fully yellow or orange Papayas are ripe and may even be approaching overly ripe. It is possible for parts of the Papaya to be more ripe than other parts of the same fruit.

After you have seen the correct colors on your Papaya (s), feel them. If it is very firm, it is not ripe. If it is overly soft, bruised, shriveled or has soft areas, it is overly ripe and likely past its prime.

If you plan to serve your Papaya within a day, look for a Papaya that gives slightly under pressure but is not soft at the stem end. Firmer Papayas will soften as they ripen. Choose a firm Papaya, if you don’t plan on serving them for a few days.   

Papayas are available all year but should be more plentiful during the summer and into the early fall because that is the peak of their season in domestic production. The pricing and flavor should be better in season.

Storage

Ripe cut Papayas should be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and used within 1 or 2 days. They will keep for a week but are best used early. Store whole Papaya at room temperature. The fruit will keep for 1-2 weeks at room temperature, but are best used early.

Unripe Papayas (partially green and partially yellow or orange) should be stored at room temperature. If you wish to speed up the ripening process, store them in a brown paper bag in a sunny spot for a day or two. If you want the process to go even faster, throw a Banana into the brown paper bag with the Papaya.

Culinary Uses

The taste of Papaya varies depending on which type you have purchased. The Tropical Papaya is deliciously sweet while the Mexican Papaya can have a musky taste that can at best be described as “bland.” Both types have a soft, butter-like consistency and are most frequently consumed Raw (without skin or seeds), similar to how you might eat a Melon. If it is ripe, the Papaya should be very soft.

The cruder, backyard method of removing the flesh is to cut the fruit in half, remove the seeds (which are bitter but edible in a Papaya) and then harvest the fruit as you would a Cantaloupe Melon with a Parisian Spoon.  Fresh Lemon Juice (to taste) helps round out the presentation. The acid in the lemon enhances the Papaya’s flavor.

Smart Kitchen’s Prepping a Papaya exercise goes into more detail on how Papayas can be prepared for use in cuisine by removing the skin (also edible but bitter) and seeds and then making Log Cuts or Dices from the remaining fruit.  Alternatively, you can also Fan it. Firmer Papaya is best for Grilling. Softer Papaya will do better in an application where the form is less important such as in a Salad.

Although Papaya can be eaten at room temperature, the experience is best when the Papaya is served cold. When adding Papaya to Salads or Fruit Salads make sure to add the Papaya just before service because Papaya can make other fruits and vegetables turn mushy.  This is because Papayas contain Papain, an enzyme that helps digest Proteins and which gives Papaya Tenderizing properties, especially when it is unripe.

Other ideas for using Papayas include, Papaya Bread, Papaya Salsa, a Papaya Fruit Salad Bowl, Cold Papaya Soup, Papaya and Cottage Cheese.

Papaya or Papaya Guava Juice is another way to enjoy Papaya. Papayas also have a relatively high amount of pectin, which can be useful in making jams and jellies.

Papaya flower buds can be Sautéed with Chilies and Green Tomatoes to make Minahasan.

The Papaya skin is edible but bitter so not very palatable

The Papaya Seeds, as mentioned above, are also bitter and edible. Papaya Seeds are most often used in the West to make or augment Salad Dressings. Papaya Dressing is an example of a Papaya Dressing. When added to other dressings such as Oil & Vinegar, Vinaigrette or creamy dressings, dry or bottled Mustard may also be added. Papaya Seeds can also be dried and ground to make a specialty seasoning similar to Black Pepper. In India, people chew Papaya Seeds to freshen their breath.

In some parts of Asia, the young leaves of the Papaya are steamed and eaten like Spinach.

Portion Size

Alllow 1-2 oz of Papaya per person.

Pairings

Cilantro, Cinnamon, Mint, Pepper, Black Pepper, Salt, Sugar, Vanilla, Cashews, Macadamia Nuts, Peanuts, Carrots, Garlic, Ginger, Salads, Bananas, Coconut, Coconut Milk, Grapefruit, Kiwi, Kumquats, Lemons, Mango, Melon, Nectarines, Oranges, Passion Fruit, Peaches, Pineapple, Raspberries, Strawberries, Fish, Yogurt, Honey, Fish Sauce, Vinegar, Rice Vinegar, Salsa

Substitutes

Mangoes, Peaches

Nutritional Value

Nutritional Value USDA
PAPAYAS,RAW
Amount Per 100g
Calories 43
%Daily Value*
 
0%
Total Fat 0g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 8mg
3%
Potassium 182mg
3%
Total Carbohydrate 10g
4%
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 7g
Protein 0g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Nutrition

Papayas are a source of many nutrients such as Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Carotenoids, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Flavonoids, Folate, Magnesium, Potassium and Dietary Fiber. The Papaya skin, pulp and seeds also contain a variety of phytochemicals, including lycopene and polyphenols. Eat Papaya fully ripened to get the most benefit from the anti-oxidants and nutrients.

Papayas also have uses in traditional or native medicine. Papaya Leaves are used, in some parts of the globe, as a malaria treatment, though the medical mechanism is not yet understood and not malaria treatment based on Papaya has yet been scientifically proven.

Dengue Fever is another disease treated in native medicine with Papaya, which is believed to raise the blood platelet levels. Papaya is also used traditionally to remedy digestive problems. Today, Papaya is marketed in tablet form for stomach and digestion problems.

Traditional medicine has also used Papaya and/or Papain as a topical agent for the treatment of cuts, rashes, stings and burns. Papain ointment is commonly made from fermented papaya flesh, and is applied as a gel-like paste.  Papain can be used like Bromelain (a similar enzyme found in Pineapples)

Indian Women (and those from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and other countries) have long used Green, unripe Papaya as an herbal medicine for contraception and abortion. (research in animals has provided evidence for the potential contraceptive and abortifacient capability of papaya). Laboratory studies have also shown that papaya seeds have contraceptive effects in adult male langur monkeys, and possibly in adult male humans. Ripe Papaya should not cause miscarriage in small amounts.

Papaya juice is thought to provide protection against colon cancer and have an in-vitro antiproliferative effect on liver cancer cells, possibly due to lycopene or because it stimulates the immune system. The nutrients in Papaya are also thought to promote cardiovascular health because they contain Anti-Oxidants that can block the oxidation of cholesterol and have good fiber which has been shown to lower cholesterol.

The Papain and Chymopapain contained in Papaya have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.  In fact, old wives believe that rubbing mosquito bites with Papaya will break down the proteins and ease the itching.

Papaya stem and bark may be used in rope production.

Allergies

Like Bananas and Avocados, Papayas contain substances called chitinases that are associated with latex-fruit allergy syndrome. If you are allergic to latex, you may also be allergic to these fruits. Cooking these fruits may deactivate the enzymes.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes