Papaya is a tropical fruit native to Central America, where it was thought to be first cultivated several thousands of years ago. The fruit grows from the Carica Papaya plant, which bears its bounty year-round with a peak occurring in the summer months. Though it is still grown in Central and Southern America, it is also grown in small quantities worldwide. Most fresh papayas consumed in the United States are grown in Hawaii, where the fruits yielded by each plant are much smaller than the traditional variety- reaching about 7 inches in length and weighing only a single pound compared to the Central American fruit that can grow up to 20 inches long!
When ripe, the papaya flesh features a vibrant orange hue with hints of yellow or pink. The fresh fruit is extremely soft and contains dark, bitter seeds which can also be eaten. It is important to only eat ripe papaya raw, as unripe green papaya can contain latex until cooked. When the fruit is ripe, it can be enjoyed as a part of all manners of recipes ranging from salsas and smoothies to salads and soups. Papayas also make a popular treat for our feathered friends, though one could hardly say this mouthwatering ambrosia is “for the birds.”
Dried Papaya Benefits
Fresh papaya is rich in nutrients, offering more than 100% of the Daily Value (DV) for Vitamin C and upwards of 10% of the DV for Vitamin A, folate, magnesium, potassium, copper, and pantothenic acid. While the dehydration process used to create dried papaya may damage some of these nutrients, the sweet snack still offers a modest source of fiber and select minerals. The dried variety is also nearly entirely without saturated fats and cholesterol- offering a superb gluten-free snack.
Fiber is essential to supporting a healthy digestive tract; the dried fruit also supplies antioxidants that help support the elimination of harmful free radicals from the body, which may help maintain a healthy immune response. The vitamins included in papaya, in spite being provided in much lower quantities by the dried variety of the fruit, also offer a means of supporting cardiovascular health.
How to Cut a Papaya
Should you instead opt for fresh papaya, preparation is relatively simple:
- Wash the fruit.
- Cut the papaya lengthwise.
- Scoop out the seeds and set aside for later consumption, or discard. The seeds are a tad bitter, so it’s best to season them with a lemon or a lime.
- Remove the peel with a paring knife.
- Cut halves into preferred size or shape.
- Season as desired and serve.