Origin of Papaya
Papaya is native to the tropical regions of the Americas, most likely Mexico and parts of Central America. According to the book, “Tropical Fruits,” papaya hasn’t been found growing wild in nature but the greatest diversity appears between the Yucatan-San Ignacio-Peter-Rio Montagua parts of Central America.
Papayas came to India by way of the Caribbean and then Malaysia around 1550. A century later, explorers from Italy and China brought papaya from India’s soils back to their respective countries.
Availability of Papaya in India
India is the world’s largest producer of papaya; unsurprisingly, then, it’s also one of the easiest fruits to find. 2011 figures from the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization cites that the country produces a staggering 4.2 million metric tons, accounting for 35 percent of the world’s production. In fact, India grows more papayas than the subsequent largest producing countries—Brazil, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, and Nigeria—combined.
Papaya is a decidedly tropical fruit, thriving in many types of soils where the weather is frost-free. According to 2011-2012 figures from the National Horticulture Board, Andhra Pradesh is the largest papaya producer, growing 1.6 million tons. Gujarat is the second, with its production figure of almost 1.2 million tons. Subsequent producers are Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala.
Each of these states has their own growing belts. In Andhra Pradesh, for example, growing districts are Cuddapah, Medak, Kurnool, and Rangareddy.
Where to find Papaya in India
Consumers can enjoy papayas any time of the year. In fact, several states with tropical climates have year-round cultivation, including Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Orissa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, and West Bengal.
India grows several types of papaya. Each varies in their flesh color, skin color, and size. The Coorg Honeydew, also known as Madhubindu, has yellow pulp with a dark skin color. Others have a pulpy orange flesh, while green papayas maintain tough, pale yellow meat. Stores throughout the country offer papaya, though the quality may not be as high in the temperate states, such as Jammu and Kashmir.
Checking for Ripeness in Papaya
Ripe papayas can be difficult to gauge. First, do not judge papayas based on their prettiness. The ones with the mottled, brownish orange skin may have the most intoxicatingly delicious flesh. Likewise, the fruits with the perfectly taut, polished skin might be underripe with hard, bitter or insipid flesh. Smell is not the best determinant, either. Some papaya cultivars emit a musky odor when overripe, but others do not regardless of their ripening stage.
Choose papayas with the deepest orange and yellow skin, even if they bear a few marks and small bruises. Avoid hard, dark green papayas, as they are underripe.
Touch is one of the best indicators of ripeness. Look for one that yields gently to the touch, but is not mushy. The skin should have a warm, velvety feel, a bit like a ripe mango.
When considering a papaya, give it a mental “splat test:” if it were dropped on the ground, a ripe papaya would splatter and reveal its juicy, sweet flesh. An unripe papaya, on the other hand, would not break and would, at best, develop a large indentation. Choose papayas that feel heavy for their size—they are the ones that if dropped, would pass the “splat test.”
Avoid overripe papayas that are shrunken, bruised, and have lumpy skin with signs of white mold in the pock marked crevices.
To choose an unripe fruit for use in raw Thai papaya salads, choose a rock-hard, green fruit with no hints of yellow or orange. Otherwise, the texture of the flesh will be too mushy.
Taste of Papaya
Papaya has an undeniably tropical flavor, but has a subdued, musky profile similar to that of muskmelon and guava. The fruit has no zesty tanginess, but instead provides an understated, mellow sweetness. The best papayas are mildly sugary and buttery with discernible notes of rich coconut. Its texture is gorgeously dense, rich and creamy like a butterfruit. Other varieties have a more watery, pulpy flesh.
As to be expected, the taste of papaya depends on its cultivar. Some, for instance, have rust-colored flesh that is far juicier than the pale orange types. The rust red varieties also tend to have a sweeter, yet sharper metallic taste than others.
Nutritional Value of Papaya
According to the USDA nutrient database, 100g of papaya contains the following nutritional information:
9.8g Carb (3% RDI)
1.8g Fiber (7% RDI)
.6g Protein (1% RDI)
1094IU Vitamin A (22% RDI)
61.8mg Vitamin C (103% RDI)
.7mg Vitamin E (4% RDI)
2.6mcg Vitamin K (3% RDI)
Thiamin (2% RDI)
Riboflavin (2% RDI)
.3mg Niacin (2% RDI)
38mcg Folate (10% RDI)
.2mg Pantothenic Acid (2% RDI)
24mg Calcium (2% RDI)
10mg Magnesium (2% RDI)
257mg Potassium (7% RDI)
Health Benefits of Papaya
Papaya is loaded with health benefits. According to the book, “Healing Power of Papaya,” the fruit has several functions in Ayurveda: it treats gastro-intestinal issues, boosts urine secretion, fights pancreatic infections, intestinal worms, liver hardening, and skin diseases. Furthermore, papaya remedies a large spleen, and the fruit’s carpaine combats heart diseases. As per Ayurvedic teachings, eating a diet rich in sweet fruits like papaya brings forth “sattva,” which is light and clarity. This essence also facilitates a person’s ability to experience bliss, joy and energy.
Papayas also contain an enzyme called papain, which sells as a health supplement. The book, “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth” explains that this enzyme eases digestion, acts as a natural pain reliever and reduces inflammation. Papayas also have a carotenoid called beta-cryptoxanthin, which has a staggering array of health benefits listed below. Applying papaya pulp topically may also contribute to softer, smoother skin, hence being a prime ingredient in the facials at many spas.
Many scientific studies affirm these benefits:
--According to a 2007 study published in the “Journal of Medical Food,” papaya seeds treat human intestinal parasites with no adverse side effects.
--According to a 2012 article published in the “International Journal of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants,” papaya leaves shortened the hospital stay of dengue fever patients due to its ability to increase platelet count.
--In a 2012 study published in “Acta Informa Medica,” papaya fruit’s antioxidants boosted the immune functions of rats induced with cancer-causing acrylamide oxidative stress. The extracts greatly improved the health of the liver, stomach and kidneys compared with the group that received none.
--As per a 2004 study in the “Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine,” papaya extracts assisted with wound healing and reduced inflammation of the burns when tested on rats.
--As per a 2000 study published in the “Asian Journal of Andrology,” papaya seeds reduced the quality and quantity of sperm in male rats, thus possibly being a natural source of male contraceptive.
--In a 2006 study published in “Clinica Terapeutica,” fermented papaya aided patients with type II diabetes by decreasing their plasma sugar levels. Ultimately, the patients were able to reduce their antidiabetic oral therapy due to their papaya consumption.
--According to a 2006 study published in the International Journal of Cancer, papaya’s beta cryptoxanthin shows antiproliferative action against human lung cancer cells.
--A study published in a 2006 edition of the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry reveals that beta-cryptoxanthin induces cell death on osteoclatic cell function, or, the dissolution of bone tissues.
*Note: Pregnant women should not consume unripe papaya or papaya seeds: a 2002 study published in the “Niger Post-Grad Medical Journal” found that papaya seeds have abortifacent properties.
How to Open/Cut:
Cut the papaya lengthwise and remove the black, peppercorn-like seeds. Lop off the ends of the fruit, and use a paring knife to peel away the fruit’s skin. Once peeled, halve the fruit, and then cut into wedges. If smaller pieces are desired, proceed to cut the wedges into chunks.
Note: If the papaya has firm flesh, use a sharp vegetable peeler to remove the skin. Using a peeler on unripe or semi-ripe fruit will result in bitter tasting bites, as the flesh nearest to the peel is the least sweet.
To shred a green, unripe papaya, remove the hard skin with a vegetable peeler. Then, grate the papaya, ideally with a mandolin on the julienne or thinly cut setting: Hold the papaya with a paper towel, and grate until the middle has been reached. Rotate the fruit, and continue shredding across the mandolin.
If no mandolin is available, then use a knife: once the skin is removed, hold the fruit with a paper towel. Then, make several vertical, rapid, light whacks against the flesh, never cutting too deep. Next, take a vegetable peeler and run it from the top to the bottom of the fruit—the grated pieces should be long and thinly cut strands on account of the previous knife hacks.
Papayas are climacteric, and will therefore ripen once picked. If purchasing a hard, green papaya, it will ripen in the course of the following week. Wrapping the fruit in newspaper or putting it in a brown paper bag with a banana will hasten this process.
At room temperature, ripe papayas will keep for approximately 3 days. Eventually, the fruit decomposes, which is evident by developing mushy exterior and white mold.
To extend the life of ripe papaya, cut it in half and cover in plastic wrap—the fruit will keep for a week or so. Many stores sell halved papayas for precisely this reason, as they can sell what would otherwise be overripe, spoiled fruit if kept whole.
It is possible to freeze papayas. Simply cut the fruit into chunks, scatter on a paper-lined cookie tray, freeze, and then transfer the frozen cubes in a freezer bag.
|Papaya cumin grilled tofu from|
Papaya Recipe Ideas and Uses:
--Add papaya to salsa recipes
--Make a Thai salad by combining ripe papaya chunks with shredded carrots, red bell pepper, raw mango (or banana flower), mint, and peanuts. Combine with a dressing made from coconut oil, peanut butter, ginger, garlic soy sauce and lemon juice. This combination works for finely shredded raw papaya as well.
--Add fresh papaya slices to spring rolls, along with vermicelli, mint, basil, shredded carrot, julienned cucumbers and ground peanuts.
--Make a papaya avocado salad by chopping papaya into small cubes, adding diced avocados, limejuice, chopped cashews, mango, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinaigrette.
--Make a thick papaya shake by pureeing papaya and leaving it to sit in the freezer until it’s near frozen. Remove, and blend the puree with strawberries and frozen bananas. Include soymilk and sugar if desired.
--Add mashed papaya to baking recipes, such as breads and cupcakes.
--Create a punch from blending papaya, coconut jelly pulp and mango. Add orange or pineapple juice, limejuice, and water. If for legal, responsible adults… throw in some coconut rum or vodka.
Banana, coconut, pineapple, mango, kiwi, strawberry, raw mango, cucumber, avocado, banana flower, bell pepper, bread fruit, cacao, guava, jackfruit,
Herbs, oil, and spices: coconut oil, mint, basil, groundnut, nut milk, cashew, ginger, garlic, lemon juice, limejuice, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, chocolate sauce, pumpkin puree
|Vegan coconut lime pie with papaya sauce from|
Papaya fruits do not grow on trees; rather, they grow on large leafy herbs.
While Mark Twain called watermelon the fruit of the angels, Christopher Columbus thought the same of the delectable papaya.
According to the book, “Fruit Crops: Vol. 3,” much of Maharashtra’s papaya production goes towards papain extraction, likely for medicinal and cosmetic use.
Papayas used to be a favorite food of the now-extinct glyptadon—a prehistoric 15-foot long giant armadillo. On the other hand, the British didn’t have the privilege of enjoying the fruit until it appeared in their markets during the 1960s.
The biotech behemoth, Monsanto offered Tamil Nadu a 10-year, royalty-free license for its genetically modified papaya capable of resisting the ringspot virus. As of March 2013, the government has approved a field trial of genetically modified crops, of which papaya is included.
Erand Karaki (Sanskrit)
Babaco (Vasconcellea x heilbornii)
Fig (Ficus carica)