Although big in popularity, the papaya tree is small and often referred to as a plant. It is said to be the fourth most popular fruit in the world. It is frost sensitive, so it is not able to be grown in any region other than the tropics and subtropics.
Papaya, or ma-la-kaw to the Thai people, are grown in two main varieties, one with yellow flesh and the other with a red flesh.
The outer skin of the papaya is a yellow-orange rind, with the fruit having a thin oval shape and cut lengthwise. A cross section of the fruit yields a yellow or red flesh which surrounds a center section full of black seeds.
Neither the skin or the seeds are usually eaten, but sometimes the seeds can be ground and used as a seasoning for their peppery taste.
In some cultures the leaves of the papaya tree are boiled and eaten in salads and used as a substitute for spinach. In Thai salads like som tam papayas are used when not fully ripe.
Papaya is also used in Thai curry dishes. Though the smell of ripe papaya can be unpleasant to some people, it is still used in many sweets, jellies and preserves because of its high pectin content.
If you are headed to the store for the papaya, be prepared to purchase it only half ripened, which is typical. The fruit turns from green to yellow-orange; however, if you find it fully green it could have been picked too soon and may never ripen
Health Benefits of Papaya
For a fruit that is 88% water, papayas are extremely high in vitamin C and also a good source of folate.
They are used in some parts of the world as prevention for malaria, where the leaves of the plant are made into a tea.
Believe it or not, one of the most interesting uses for papaya is as a meat tenderizer. The tree and the papaya fruit is rich in papain which is an enzyme. This is the main ingredient in some powdered meat and protein tenderizers.
Some grilling techniques even utilize papaya leaves for a wrap around the meat, thereby tenderizing and protecting from the flame simultaneously.
Because papain can break down the proteins in meat, it has also been found to break down the fibrin cancer cell walls found in cancer patients, making chemotherapy more effective. The way that this works is by making the cancer cell more susceptible to penetration by the chemotherapy, causing the cancer cell to be overtaken.
There are a lot of digestive ailments that are treated by eating papaya such as liver, constipation, and digestive disorders.
It is great for lowering blood pressure when mixed with aloe juice. Dengue fever, spread by mosquitoes, is also treated with papaya. One of the more exotic uses of the papaya plant or tree is the juice from its trunk for the treatment of warts.
This superfood is delicious and has many benefits that make it worth adding it to your diet.