Description: Sometime called the tree melon, the papaya or “paw paw” is grown extensively in all tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world. There are many strains and varieties of this melon-like fruit and the variation in size, form and color is great. Some papayas resemble small watermelons, while others are quite small and almost round. The flesh of papaya is white before maturity, turns to a rich orange-yellow or deep rose when ripe, with color varying according to variety. The flesh encircles a cavity containing grayish-black seeds that have culinary uses, although not very tasty to most people.
Availability: Year-round with peak seasons June through September. Most papayas sold in the markets are from Florida or Hawaii.
Selection and Care: Softening is the key to ripeness. Papayas that are one-quarter to one-half ripe should keep 1-2 weeks. The development of a yellow blush is associated with ripening when the fruit ripens at 65 degrees F. or over. At lower temperatures the color process may stop and the fruit soften without changing color. For this reason papayas should be stored at room temperature until ripe (soft). Ripening can be slowed by chilling at 60 degrees F. or stopped at 50 degrees F. Chilling below 50 degrees F. will damage fruit. Chill a papaya once it is completely or almost ripe, not before. Serve within a day or two, or it loses flavor.
Nutritional Value: Papaya is low in calories and rich in natural vitamins and minerals, particularly in vitamins A & C, and potassium. One cup fresh cubes or 100 gm weight of papaya contains: 55 calories, 0.61 gm protein, 9.8 gm carbohydrates, 1.8 gm dietary fiber, 89% water, 283 IU vitamin A, 62 mg vitamin C, 38 mg folate and 257 mg potassium.
Use & Preparation: Ripe papaya is great eaten raw. Slightly under-ripe fruit can be cooked as a vegetable. Before using, peel the papaya, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Papayas combine well with others fruits as pineapple, strawberry, orange, banana, coconut, and lime for salads or fruit desserts.
The papaya’s shiny, grayish-black seeds are usually discarded, but they have a peppery taste and make a delicious salad dressing. For a dressing, combine some of the seeds with you favorite vinaigrette in a blender and process until pureed, or puree papaya and some of it seeds and add ginger, cayenne or fresh hot peppers.
Papaya contains papain, an enzyme used in meat tenderizers, both in the flesh and in the seeds. Marinades for less tender cuts of meat can enhance the flavor and tenderness by the addition of papaya puree and/or some ground seeds.
Papaya Cooler 1 peeled papaya, seeded and sliced 2 scoops lowfat vanilla ice cream
1 banana or frozen yogurt
1 tablespoon honey 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
Mix ingredients in blender. Blend until frothy. Serves 2-4 .
Papaya and Onion Salsa
Great on fish, chicken and pork, also on top of black beans and rice. 3/4 cup firm-ripe papaya, peeled, chopped 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro or parsley,
1/4 cup diced onion, sweet or red finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, finely minced 1 1/2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
Add all ingredients together in a bowl and stir gently to blend. Season lightly with salt, if desired. Chill thoroughly before serving, even making one day ahead of serving. Serves 4.