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Papaya is a variety of fruit obtained from the plant ‘carica papaya’. Papaya is a sweet, juicy fruit with some different names such as ‘pawpaw’ or ‘papaw’. The fruit has a hard exterior with mushy orange flesh inside. Throughout the world, papaya dishes are mainly served as a breakfast staple. It is also called a ‘wonder fruit’ as it contains high nutritional value with nice flavor. Green papaya salad, papaya custard and papaya mustard chutney are some of the popular papaya recipes that are well-liked globally.

History of Papaya

Papayas are believed to be the native of South America and Mexico. During 1526, papaya was found in the coast of Caribbean and Columbia. Spanish explorers are responsible for spreading the popularity of papaya to the entire Caribbean region.

Culinary Use of Papaya

Papaya is a very popular tropical fruit that is used widely in cooking. The pink or golden flesh of papaya is used as a main component in various salads and desserts. Green papaya is a good meat tenderizer hence it is grated and used in marinade as a tenderizer. It is also a familiar ingredient in numerous stews and soup dishes. Papaya is a widely eaten fruit in breakfast and many papaya dishes are served as side dishes such as chili papaya with venison and papaya with pineapple salsa. Due to its long pear shape, papaya is a good fruit to be stuffed. Papaya is pureed to make chutneys and sauces. Baked papaya recipes are also very popular in various cuisines. Papaya seeds are usually scooped out and discarded but they have a spicy flavor and can be dried and used as a peppery seasoning.

Popular Papaya Recipes

Some of the famous papaya recipes are as follows:

• Papaya salad – It is one of the most popular papaya recipes around the world. Either green papaya or orange papaya can be used to make this popular dish.

• Green papaya pickle – It’s an Indian delicacy used as a condiment.

• Papaya salsa – As salsa is a Mexican recipe, papaya salsa is one of the variations of the popular recipe.

• Shrimp stuffed papaya – This is one of the gourmet papaya recipes served in continental as well as European cuisines.

• Papaya halwa- It’s a nice Indian dessert made with papaya.

Cuisines Commonly Making Papaya Dishes

Papaya is popularly known as ‘papita’ in Indian cuisine and it is widely used in making Indian sweets and side dishes. Fruits salads also include papita as one of the main components. Various Indian lentil and stew dishes contain papaya cubes. Another cuisine that makes most out of papaya is Mexican cuisine. Salsa, salads and stuffed Mexican dishes are well-liked throughout the world. Spanish and American cuisines are also famous for making variety of papaya dishes.

Preferred Methods for Making Papaya Dishes

Usually, papaya is used in raw form while cooking. Here are few methods that are used to make papaya dishes:

• Pureeing – Papaya is pureed to make papaya chutney and sauce.

• Stuffing – Papaya is good for stuffing. Shrimps, turkey meat or minced chicken can be stuffed to make delectable papaya dishes.

• Baking – Fresh papaya is used in making various papaya breads, muffins and pies.

• Chopping – Papaya flesh is chopped to make salsa or to be included in salads. • Grating – Green papaya is grated and used as a meat tenderizer while marinating.

• Stewing – Papaya cubes are added to stews and soups.

Nutritive Value of Papaya

Papaya is extremely nutritious. It is a good source of beta-carotene that helps in preventing the free radicals that may cause certain type of cancers. Here are some other health benefits of papaya and papaya dishes:

• It regularizes bowel movement and also strengthens immunity.

• Papaya is a good booster for energy level.

• A very useful digestive enzyme is present in papaya i.e. Papain that also helps in preventing constipation.

• As papaya and papaya dishes contain vitamin A, it is considered very useful for eyes.

• It also acts as a blood purifier and helps in treating jaundice and irregular mensuration.

• Vitamin C and calcium are also present in good amount in papaya.

Consumption Criteria of Papaya

Due to its highly nutritious properties, papaya is suitable for people of all age-groups. Papaya contains negligible amount of sugar and unlike banana and mango, hence it is an excellent fruit for diabetics and weight watchers. People suffering from constipation can also consume papaya to regularize the digestive system.

Food and Drug Administration Approval for Papaya

The important enzyme ‘papain’ exhibits pain-relieving properties due to which it is approved by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a medicine in spinal injections. This use eases the discomfort of slipped discs.

Buying and Storing of Papaya

Papaya should always be firm and blemish free. Soft-spotted and leaking papayas should be avoided. The skin of papaya should be yellowish green in color and it should give a fruity fresh smell. If papaya is unripe then it can be wrapped in a brown paper and kept in room temperature for a day. Ripe papaya should be stored in refrigerator to avoid damage to the fruit. Cut papaya dishes should always be refrigerated and consumed within 1-2 days.

Types of Papaya

• Mexican red – It’s an elongated variety of papaya with orange-red color. It has a sweet flesh that is reddish in color.

• Mexican yellow – It is similar to Mexican red papaya but only difference is the color of the flesh. Mexican yellow has yellowish sweet flesh inside.

• Solo- It is one of the most common varieties of papaya. Solo has flesh that is reddish-orange in color. It is also called Hawaiian papaya.

• Kamiah papaya – Unlike other pear-shaped papayas, this variety is round in shape.

Papaya Trivia

• Papaya has been used in India and Pakistan as a folk medicine for contraception.

• The leaves of papaya are also used in Asian cooking while steaming.