The exact origination of papaya is unknown but it is believed to be native to southern Mexico and neighboring Central America. The papaya is a melon like fruit with yellow-orange flesh enclosed in a thin skin that varies in color from green to orange to rose. Papayas are a rich source of vitamin A and C. One half of a small papaya can provide 150% of the recommended dietary intake of Vitamin C. It is low in calories, fat free, cholesterol free, and a good source of potassium, folate, and fiber.
Today papaya can be found all year long with the peak season being early summer and fall. Most of the papayas imported come from Hawaii, but smaller quantities from Florida, California, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Central and South American countries are becoming more available.
The papaya enzyme called papain, is used as a meat tenderizer. It breaks down tough meat fibers. Its use is nothing new. South American cooks have been using papaya to tenderize meat for ages. It is sold as a component in powdered meat tenderizer available in most supermarkets.
Look for papayas that are partly or completely yellow in color, depending on variety, that give slightly to pressure, but are not soft at the stem-end. Avoid papayas that are bruised, shriveled, or have soft areas. Papayas that are hard and green are immature and will not ripen properly. Uncut papayas have no smell. Papayas that are cut should smell sweet, not bad or fermented.
Serving Size: ½ papaya (140g)
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Slightly green papayas will ripen quickly at room temperature, especially if placed in a paper bag. As the papaya ripens, it will turn from green to yellow. Place ripe papayas in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. Papayas will keep for up to a week, but it's best to use them within a day or two.