Papaya – Yummy Powerhouse
by Dorothy Bell
Christopher Columbus called the Papaya the “Fruit of the Angels” for its refreshing taste, nutritional qualities and health benefits.
Originating in southern Mexico – particularly Chiapas and Veracruz – and parts of Central America, this powerhouse fruit is now cultivated throughout the tropical world. In Mexico, lucky us, you can find delicious papaya sold from roadside stands on the coast and in every market and supermarket in the nation.
This versatile plant is used for many different purposes. The fruit is consumed as food as well as used as a tenderizer for meats. The seeds are used as a healthy condiment to replace pepper. The skin and fruit are used as a suave and dressing for wounds, burns and getting rid of age spots. The stem and bark is used in the production of natural ropes.
The fruit is also used in traditional medicines and the cosmetic industry.
The papaya plant grows quickly in a tropical setting. This frost sensitive plant can produce fruit within three years. The single stem plant grows to 5 to 10 meters (16 to 33 ft) tall. The leaves of the “tree” are clustered at the top of the trunk. The fruit matures into long oval shaped spheres 15–45 centimeters (5.9–18 in) long, 10–30 centimeters (3.9–12 in) diameter.
Selecting and Preparation
Select a papaya that is amber/orange in color and slightly soft to the touch similar to an avocado. It should not be too soft where the stem end is located.
Store papayas at room temperature if they are a little firm or in the refrigerator if they are softer and ripened. To enjoy the most robust natural flavor, bring the fruit back to room temperature to prepare
Wash the fruit to remove pesticide residues. Cut the fruit in half longitudinally and then scoop out the seeds. Scoop out the seeds and run them under cold water to remove the “gel” surrounding them. (You can use the seeds fresh or dry/dehydrate them for a condiment substitute for pepper.)
Cut the fruit into quarters and remove the skin with a paring knife. (Save the peels to use on skin)
Vitamin and mineral rich, papaya has 50% more potassium and 10 times more Vitamin C than oranges and contains fewer calories. Papaya is higher in Vitamin E than either apples or oranges too. Papaya is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a great source of Dietary Fiber.
Cell Rejuvenation – Papaya assists the body in the production of the amino acid arginine, and kick-starts the growth hormone – vital in rejuvenation of cells in your muscles, liver and bones.
Skin – The vitamin rich papaya is a powerhouse of nutrition and anti-oxidants which help maintain and promote good skin health. It also contains anti-inflammatories and is used topically for medical and/or cosmetic purposes.
The skin of the papaya is used in some parts of the world to treat cuts, rashes, stings and burns and to act as a dressing/suave for wounds. Traditional cosmetic uses of the papaya include using as a mask to defoliate, soften and overall improve skin texture and health. A papaya mask is used on the face to reduce wrinkles and on the arms and legs to reduce/eliminate age spots.
Indigestion – The enzyme papain in papaya contributes to improving digestion. The enzyme detoxifies the digestive tract and breaks down proteins assisting in digestive disorders that contribute to bloating, constipation and gas production.
Papaya is also used to combat nausea and morning sickness.
Anti-aging – A rich source of vitamin C, E and B vitamins like riboflavin and niacin, papaya is considered an excellent antioxidant food. Anti-oxidants are said to minimize cancer and improve the overall immune system to thwart invasion of bacterial and viral infections.
Ringworm and Bacterial Infections – Papaya seeds are anti-parasitic, analgesic and anti-inflammatory and have been used to treat bacterial and ringworm infections.
Other Uses Meat Tenderizing – Both the pulp of the fruit or the stem can be pulverized in a blender and applied to meat. Twenty minutes will be enough time to soften a steak. An hour will turn the meat to mush so experiment little by little.
Condiment – The seeds have a peppery taste and are used as a substitute for black pepper or to add some spark to a salad.
Foods – In Asia the leaves are used as a vegetable and steamed or boiled. Dried leaves are used as a tea.