The fruit of the papaya tree, a tree probably originally from Central America; the papaya is spherical or cylindrical in shape. The Hawaiian “Solo” variety is one of the most common. The papaya has a thin non-edible skin colored orange-yellow, red-yellow or yellow-green. Its juicy flesh, orange-yellow in color, can also be yellow or reddish. Its texture, similar to cantaloupe, is softer. Its central cavity holds a number of edible seeds.
The papaya has a mild flavor, more or less sweet and perfumed, depending on the species, which is reminiscent of melon. Most species in the Carica genus are not edible. The mountain papaya and the babaco are more rare.
Choose: A papaya with orange-yellow skin over most of its surface that yields to slight finger pressure. The presence of black spots or mold does not affect the flavor.
Avoid: A papaya that is hard and very green, or one that is soft or very bruised.
At Room Temperature: For ripening. Place the papaya in a paper bag to speed up the ripening process. Eat as soon as it ripe.
In the Fridge: Ripe, a few days.
An unripe papaya kept at less than 45° or in the fridge will not ripen any further.
SERVING IDEAS FOR PAPAYAS
Papaya is eaten with a spoon, with or without sugar, sprinkled with lemon or lime juice, port or rum. It is used in yogurt, puddings, sorbets and ice cream. Papaya is added at the last moment to fruit salads, as it softens the other fruits. It is made into juice or purée. It is cooked into jam, chutney or ketchup. Papaya works well with ham, prosciutto and smoked salmon. It can be stuffed with fruit, chicken, or seafood salad.
Green papaya is used in the same way as winter squash, which it can replace in most recipes, though it needs to be “bled” (that is, drain the white sap and acid it contains) before using.
It can be dressed with vinaigrette, stuffed, cooked in a fricassee or ratatouille, and marinated.
Papaya seeds can be ground and used like black pepper. A few can be eaten when eating the papaya.
The babaco is cooked into jam or canned. In South American, it is used in cakes. This fruit is rarely made into juice, as it is too acidic.
DID YOU KNOW?
Did you know that papaya is an excellent source of vitamin C? In Brazil, a syrup is made with papaya juice that has a sedative effect.