Warm weather months are my favored time for papaya.  It is a great tasting fruit, especially for breakfast, especially in the vicinity of 21.9 North and 158.4 West (Honolulu), where it always seems to taste even better—wonder why?  Here is some background information on papaya drawn from an article I did for school awhile back.

The papaya is native to the tropics of the Western Hemisphere and appears in the records of Cortez’s invasion of Mexico in 1519.  Papaya is grown from seed that produces a fast-growing tree-like herb growing to a height of twenty feet.  While the tree will live for 25 years, planters renew them every three years.  The tree produces fruit, in large quantity, throughout the year.  Fruit size varies from ½ to 20 pounds.  Large papayas are grown solely to extract papain, a proteolytic enzyme used in the beverage, food and pharmaceutical industries. 

The best papayas come from Hawaii.  Captain Cook presented papaya seeds from Central America to Hawaii’s king in 1778.  It quickly became “the fruit of royalty.”  Two small-sized varieties comprise Hawaii’s native papaya for consumption and export of fruit, and seeds to planters in Asia — the golden-fleshed Kapoho Solo and Sunrise Solo, a reddish orange variant, both developed by the University of Hawaii, which has become a world center of papaya research and development, including quarantine and de-infestation procedures.  As a result, Hawaii is the major source of papayas for Japan, the United States, and other countries with strict quarantine regulations.

The yellow-sunset flesh of a ripe papaya is superficially similar to that of a melon.  The ripe pulp is as spoonable as a fiberless mango.  Papaya taste is soft, juicy and silky-smooth, with a delicate sweet flavor and somewhat musky or sour finish.  A ripe Solo papaya-half, served alone with a few drops of limejuice, is rightfully a mainstay of breakfast in Hawaii. A ripe papaya also goes wonderfully with prosciutto ham.  Because cooked green papayas are nearly tasteless, the chef is advised to work with the ripened fruit, which does not turn mushy when cooked.  Cooked papaya is very good in savory dishes taking a role of vegetable, fruit, sauce or liaison—as a meat tenderizer agent in marinades, as kebabs with chicken, as potato-like chunks with roast beef, or pureed and combined with ginger, cayenne, and some cream for a buttery sauce that is more vegetable than fruit-like. 

 A cup of papaya has only 55 calories, despite its sweet taste.  They are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber.  The seeds are edible but are usually discarded.

Papayas do not travel well and must be picked green for export.  Local buyers should look for fruit that is bruise-free with smooth, unwrinkled skin.  Color should be pale green to pale yellow but is not the sole indication of ripeness.  A ripe papaya will give slightly to palm pressure. Not surprisingly, given their fragile nature, papayas are quite
expensive.  Papayas should be ripened at room temperature.  Ripe fruit will keep in the refrigerator up to a week.

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