Papayas are a healthy fruit with high vitamin C and antioxidant content. There are several different kinds to choose from. Hawaiian papayas are smaller, and Caribbean and Asian papayas are larger. All types are equally delicious and nutritious. Many people are unsure how to choose, prepare and eat papayas because they are not a familiar staple food where they live. Fortunately, these fruits are simple to cut and go well in a variety of recipes.
For the best flavor and texture, it's important to choose ripe papaya. It's easy to tell from the color whether a papaya is ready to eat, as ripe fruits will have patches of yellow skin. Check that the papaya is soft enough for a lightly-pressed finger to create an indent.
If the papaya isn't ripe enough, it can be encouraged to ripen more quickly by placing it in a paper bag with bananas. This is because bananas secrete a lot of ethylene, which encourages fruit to ripen.
Using a sharp knife, cut the papaya in half lengthways on a cutting board. Peel off and discard the skin. Using a metal spoon, scrape the seeds out from the center of the fruit. This should be done gently, especially if the papaya is very ripe. Otherwise, some of the fruit could end up being removed along with the seeds.
Papaya can be cut into chunks or slices depending on the recipe. Wedges work well if the papaya is being served as finger food or in a child's lunch box. If the papaya is being served at a dinner party in a salad or dessert, scooping out the flesh with a melon baller gives an elegant and tempting appearance to the fruit.
Some people don't like the pungent aroma of freshly cut papaya. This can be disguised by drizzling fresh lime juice over the cut fruit. This method also complements the natural flavor of the papaya flesh. Lemon juice can be used as an alternative if fresh limes are not readily available.
The seeds of papaya can be eaten. Papaya seeds are high in nutrients and healthy fats and have a spicy, peppery taste. They have antioxidant properties and are known to improve digestion.
However, papaya seeds should be eaten in moderation. It is believed that consuming them in large amounts could be toxic to humans.
If left at room temperature, papaya will quickly become overripe and mushy. If the papaya is already ripe but isn't going to be used straight away, it should be stored in the fridge whole and skin-on. It will remain ripe for around a week.
Papaya can be frozen in chunks, soaked in sugar water. Papaya stored in this way is best used in fruit smoothies as it will be softer than fresh papaya once thawed.
Green papaya salad is one of the most famous ways to eat papaya fruit. To prepare this Thai specialty, cut fresh green papaya into small chunks. Add fresh tomatoes, chopped chilies, lime juice, chopped garlic and a small splash of fish sauce. This dish is traditionally served as a zingy starter.
Blending papaya into a milkshake creates a drink that is both creamy and refreshing. It's a great way to add extra vitamins and minerals to breakfast.
To make a papaya milkshake, blend together a cup of ripe papaya chunks with a cup of milk and a tablespoon of honey. Adding a couple of ice cubes can make the milkshake more refreshing on a hot day. Some people like to add a pinch of black pepper to complement the flavor of the papaya.
Papaya is naturally rich in an enzyme called papain. This enzyme is helpful for digesting proteins. For this reason, it may be a useful addition to the diets of people with gastritis or other digestive disorders. It should be consumed as a starter so that the enzymes in the papaya can help with the digestion of the meal.
Papaya is an ideal food for growing babies because of its high nutrient content. It's suitable for children from around 7-8 months old.
When serving papaya to young babies, it's important to use very ripe papaya and mash it to a fine puree. Otherwise, the flesh could pose a choking hazard. Papaya seeds shouldn't be served to babies as they are tough to digest.