Papaya turn greenish-yellow with shades of orange when ripe and contain numerous round, shiny, inedible black seeds in its center cavity. Somewhat similar to a melon, its delectable flesh is firm and juicy. The flavor, however, is not quite as sweet as the common papaya.
Papaya is one of the fastest growing tropical fruits available today. Ranging in size, some can measure twenty inches long and weigh in at fifteen pounds. The average papaya found in markets weighs one-and-one-fourth to two pounds and is six to twelve inches long. The Mexican variety is somewhat larger.
Papaya places first among fruits in the content of vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, niacin, calcium, folate, riboflavin, thiamine, potassium and fiber. Papaya contains a beneficial enzyme, papain, that aids digestion. Following papaya in nutritional value, in order, is cantaloupe, strawberry, orange, tangerine, kiwi, mango, apricot, persimmom and watermelon. Eating five daily servings of fruits and vegetables lowers the chances of cancer. A recent study found that eating nine or ten daily servings of fruits and vegetables, combined with three servings of low-fat dairy products, were effective in lowering blood pressure.
Lacking acidity, enhance flavor with a sprinkle of lemon or lime juice. Cut in half; scoop out seeds; top with a scoop of sour cream, frozen or chilled yogurt or ice cream; sprinkle with brown sugar or granola. Slice peeled papaya into rings for an attractive edible garnish; serve with fish and meats. Dress up green salads. Make yummy marinades, ice cream, sauces, smoothies and bread. Add green papaya to stews and soups. Bake, boil or stuff; serve as a vegetable. Add to fruit salads. Puree to make delicious iced beverages. Blend with peanut butter for a tasty spread. Spicy foods love its company. Containing papain, a meat tenderizer, puree fruit to make a natural tenderizing addition to meat marinades. Papaya leaves wrapped around meat also serve as a tenderizer. To soften and tenderize thick meats such as roast beef or t-bones, spread mashed papaya over the meat. Refrigerate about two hours before cooking. To ripen, keep green fruit at room temperature three to five days. To store, refrigerate ripe papaya. Use within a day or two for best flavor. Firm peeled papaya can be frozen in chunks. Frozen fruit is best used in soups, marinades, salad dressings, entrée or dessert sauces and for baking. Uncooked papaya does not congeal in commercial gelatin with an animal protein base. It may be used with agar, a seaweed base. When making papaya chutney or jam, use a commercial pectin or other fruits that have an abundance of pectin.