All about papayas

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Jun 18, 2014 - 04:12 PM

Photo: The papaya is beautiful and good for you. This is National Papaya Month, a chance to learn more about this exotic fruit. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

The papaya is beautiful and good for you. This is National Papaya Month, a chance to learn more about this exotic fruit. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

June is National Candy, Dairy, Ice Tea, Fruit and Vegetable Month, but it is also National Papaya Month, a fruit often overlooked in this area of the country, yet it was reputably called the “fruit of the angels” by Christopher Columbus. Today some claim it to be among the world’s most healthful foods.

Once considered quite exotic, papayas can now be found in markets throughout the year. If you want to eat them within a day of purchase, select papayas that have bright yellow skin and are slightly soft to the touch, yet firm, with a sweet aroma. Those that are mostly yellow with a bit of green will take a few more days to ripen at home.

Papayas should be refrigerated to slow down the ripening process. Place the whole fruit in a plastic bag and it should last about a week in the fridge. Those purchased that are not completely ripe can be ripened at home at room temperature and even faster if you put them in a paper bag. Ripe papaya is best eaten raw, while the green fruit is preferred for cooking.

Papayas can weigh up to 20 pounds; the average papaya in the market is about six inches long and weighs from one to two pounds.

Papayas can be used many different ways. They can be eaten as is, added to a fruit salad, or used in many recipes including one for a cocktail. To eat as is, wash the fruit, cut it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and eat it just like a melon. You might like it sprinkled with some lime juice. The seeds are edible but the skin is not. The seeds have a peppery taste and are often blended into a salad dressing giving it a peppery flavor. The seeds can be chewed whole.