The papaya is a large pear-shaped fruit with golden-yellow skin. It can be 75 to 500 mm in length and can weigh as much as 12 kgs.
The pulp of the papaya is also golden-yellow and is fleshy, juicy and smooth. It has a sweet-tart flavor. It has a large central cavity which is filled with shiny, gray seeds.
The papaya is a popular breakfast fruit in many countries and is also used in many food preparations like salads, pies, juices, and confections.
Raw papayas contain a milky juice which contains a protein-digesting enzyme known as papain. Papain is an excellent meat tenderizer.
Papayas are usually grown from seed and the plant grows rapidly, with the first fruit being produced before the end of the first year. The plants live for about five years.
Papayas 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. These nutrients promote the health of the cardiovascular system and also provide protection against colon cancer. Papaya also contains papain, which is used like bromelain, to treat sports injuries, other causes of trauma, and allergies.
Papayas are also considered very useful in the prevention of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease.
The nutrients contained in papaya help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. When cholesterol becomes oxidized it is able build up in blood vessel walls, forming plaques that can eventually cause heart attacks or strokes. Vitamin E and vitamin C associate with a compound called paraoxonase, an enzyme that inhibits LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol oxidation.
Papayas are also an excellent of fiber, which lowers high cholesterol levels. They have also been shown to be helpful in the prevention of colon cancer. Papaya's fiber is able to bind to cancer-causing toxins in the colon and keep them away from the healthy colon cells. In addition, papaya's folate, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and vitamin E have each been associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer.
Since they contain large amounts of Vitamin C and vitamin A, papaya are a good fruit choice for preventing such illnesses as ear infections, colds and flu.
For smokers and those who are exposed to secondhand smoke, making vitamin A-rich foods, such as papaya, part of the diet, may help to save their lives.
Regularly eat lycopene-rich fruits such as papaya may greatly reduce a man's risk of developing prostate cancer.
How to buy and store
To buy a papaya for immediate consumption, choose a fruit that has reddish-orange skin and is slightly soft to the touch.
Papayas that are totally green or are hard can only be used for cooking or in Asian salads.
A few black spots on the surface of the papaya will not affect the taste but avoid bruised or overly soft fruit. Partially yellow papayas should be left at room temperature to allow them to ripen. Ripe papayas should be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within one or two days.
- Papayas can be eaten as they are or added to fruit salads.
- One of the easiest ways to eat papaya is to eat it just like a melon. Cut it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and then eat it with a spoon.
- You can even use a melon baller to scoop out the fruit of a halved papaya. When adding to a fruit salad, add the papaya just before serving as it causes the other fruits to become very soft.
- The big black seeds, they are actually edible and blended into a creamy salad dressing, giving it a peppery flavor.
- Mix diced papaya, cilantro, jalapeno peppers and ginger together to make a unique salsa that goes great with shrimp, scallops and halibut.
- Cut a small papaya lengthwise and fill with fruit salad.
- Sauté the prawns with papaya slices and serve with a sauce made with coconut milk, garlic, ginger and lime.
- In Brazil ripe papaya is blended with vanilla ice cream and 1 tbsp. blackberry liqueur.
Papayas contain substances called chitinases that are associated with the latex-fruit allergy syndrome. People who have a latex allergy are very likely be allergic to papaya as well. Cooking the food may deactivate the enzymes.
Papaya contains the papain, which has wonderful exfoliating properties - removing dead skin, and specifically damaged skin.
Papaya juice is said to reduce freckles or brown spots caused due to exposure to sunlight.
It also has a positive effect on skin ulcers and on severe burn wounds.
To remove blackheads: Apply finely crushed papaya pulp to your face, avoiding the areas around your eyes and mouth. Rinse after 15 minutes.
To remove warts or corns from the foot Squeeze the juice of a raw papaya over a wart or corn several times a day for a week. The corn or wart will wrinkle up and fall off.
For glowing skin: Rub the inner side of ripe papaya peel over face and neck. Wash off with water for a soft glowing skin.
Acne: Make a mask with the fleshy side of a green papaya skin and apply on the acne.
Dandruff: Shampoo hair with diluted papaya vinegar mixed with lemon juice and leave on for 20 minutes. Rinse the hair with diluted papaya vinegar. Papaya hair shampoos are also available in health food stores.
Skin with large pores: Wash with diluted papaya vinegar.
Sunspots: Apply the fleshy side of the skin from a green fruit to the spots. Also apply papaya vinegar to the spots.