Fruit of the Month: Papaya!
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
Calories from Fat
Total Fat 0g
* 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.
There are two types of papayas, the Hawaiian and Mexican. The Hawaiian
varieties also known as Solo papayas, are found most often in supermarkets.
These fruits are pear shaped, weigh about a pound each, and have yellow skin
when ripe. The flesh is bright orange or pinkish, depending on the variety. The
Mexican varieties are not as common but can be found in Latino supermarkets.
Mexican papayas are much larger then the Hawaiian types and can weigh up to 20
pounds and be more than 15 inches long. Although the flavor is less intense
than the Hawaiian varieties, they are still delicious and enjoyable.