The Papaya, also called papaw, or pawpaw, is the fruit of the Carica Papaya tree.
It is believed to be native to southern Mexico and neighboring Central America.
The Papaya has become naturalized throughout the Caribbean Islands, Florida and several countries of Africa. Additional crops are grown in India, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and the U.S. state of Hawaii.
The papaya is a small, sparsely branched tree, usually with a single stem growing from 5 to 10 meters (16 to 33 feet) tall, with spirally arranged leaves confined to the top of the trunk.
The lower trunk is conspicuously scarred where leaves and fruit were borne.
The leaves are large, 50–70 cm (20–28 in) in diameter, deeply palmately lobed, with seven lobes.
The 5-petalled flowers are fleshy, waxy and slightly fragrant. Some plants bear only short-stalked pistillate (female) flowers, waxy and ivory-white; or hermaprodite (perfect) flowers (having female and male organs), ivory-white with bright-yellow anthers and borne on short stalks; while others may bear only staminate (male) flowers, clustered on panicles to 1.5-1.8 meters (5 or 6 feet) long.
The fruit is a large berry spherical or pear-shaped about 15–45 cm (5.9–17.7 in) long and 10–30 cm (3.9–11.8 in) in diameter. It is ripe when it feels soft (as soft as a ripe avocado or a bit softer) and its skin has attained an amber to orange hue.
The very juicy flesh is deep yellow or orange to pinkish-colored. Along the walls of the large central cavity are attached the numerous round, wrinkled black seeds, the size of peas.
There are two types of papayas, Hawaiian and Mexican.
The Hawaiian varieties are the papayas commonly found in supermarkets. The flesh is bright orange or pinkish, depending on variety, with small black seeds clustered in the center.
Mexican papayas are much larger then the Hawaiian types. The flesh may be yellow, orange or pink. The flavor is less intense than that the Hawaiian papaya but still is delicious. A properly ripened papaya is juicy, sweetish and somewhat like a cantaloupe in taste. The edible seeds have a spicy flavor somewhat reminiscent of black pepper.
The ripe fruit is usually eaten raw, without the skin or seeds. It is popular as a breakfast fruit or dessert.
Deliciously sweet with musky undertones and a soft, butter-like consistency, it is no wonder the papaya was reputably called the “fruit of the angels” by Christopher Columbus.
Papayas offer not only the luscious taste and sunlit color of the tropics, but are rich sources of antioxidant nutrients such as carotenes (including beta-carotene which turns into vitamin A inside the human body) flavonoids and vitamin C, as well as vitamin B (folate and pantothenic acid). It is also a good source of fiber and minerals such as potassium, copper, and magnesium.
The health benefits of papaya include better digestion, relief from toothache, improvement in the immune system and the promotion of better heart health. Papaya is also believed to prevent cancer.
There are 43 calories in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of Papayas.
Both green papaya fruit and the tree’s latex are rich in an enzyme called papain. It has been used as a natural meat tenderizer for thousands of years and today is an ingredient in many commercial meat tenderizers.
Papain is also popular (in countries where it grows) as a topical application in the treatment of cuts, rashes, stings and burns. Harrison Ford was treated for a ruptured disc incurred during filming of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom by papain injections.
Papain is also used in the preparation of dietary supplements and chewing gums.
Papaya leaf tea has been used in tropical regions to treat a number of ailments and recent scientific data suggests that papaya leaf may be useful in fighting cancer.
In some parts of the world, papaya leaf tea is use as a treatment for malaria, but the mechanism is not understood and no treatment method based on these results has been scientifically proven.
Women in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and various other parts of the world have used papaya as a folk remedy for contraception and abortion. Modern research has confirmed that unripe papaya does indeed work as a natural contraceptive and can induce abortion when eaten in large quantities.
Papaya releases a latex fluid when not ripe, possibly causing irritation and an allergic reaction in some people.
Consumption of very large amounts of papaya may cause carotenemia, harmless yellowing of soles and palms.
The bark of the papaya tree is often used to make rope.
The largest fruit display weighs 18,805.84 kilograms (41,459.78 lbs) and was achieved by Confederação de Agricultura e Pecuária do Brasil (Brazil) at Esplanada dos Ministérios, in Brasília, Distrito Federal, Brazil, on 28 July 2016.
The papaya was introduced to Hawaii in the early 1800s. Today, Hawaii is the only U.S. state that grows papayas commercially.