Learn About Papaya

Author: Chef Sydney

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What is Papaya?

A papaya, also called a pawpaw, is a tree-grown fruit grown in tropical regions around the world.  They are somewhat pear-shaped, medium-sized fruits.  Their skin is often green, yellow, or bright orange, which can indicate ripeness.  The inside of the fruit is orange and the middle is filled with large round seeds about the size and shape of peppercorns.  The flesh of the fruit usually has a soft and creamy texture.  Papaya may smell sweet when ripe.  

What Does Papaya Taste Like?

Papaya has a mild taste and the sweetness depends on the fruit’s ripeness.  Papaya and cantaloupe have a similar flavor.  The seeds have a sharp flavor, similar to peppercorns.

Learn About Papaya
Freshly chopped papaya ready to eat.

How Do You Eat Papaya?

People eat papaya raw or cooked and often add it to both savory and sweet dishes.  Remove the skin and scrape out the seeds with a spoon.  The seeds are edible, but most people do not eat them.  Papaya is added to chicken dishes, salads, and stews.  Some people scrape out the seeds and use the fruit as a boat for stuffings.  Salsas and chutneys use chopped papaya as a part of the sauce.  Sweet dishes, such as smoothies, frozen yogurt, and sorbets, combine papaya with other fruits to create delicious treats.

Where Can You Buy Papaya?

Look for papaya in the produce section of the grocery store year-round.

How Do You Store Papaya?

Store ripe papaya in a plastic bag in the refrigerator to maintain freshness. If your papaya is not ripe, store it in a cool, dry place until it ripens.

Fun Fact About Papaya

Some people steep the leaves of a papaya tree into tea.

Did You Know?

Because of their similar flavor, some people substitute papaya seeds in place of black pepper.

Recipes Using Papaya

Papaya Lassi with Cardamom

A Lassi is a traditional Indian smoothie made with mango, banana, or other fruits, and this version is made with papaya. In a blender, add yogurt, papaya chunks, ground cardamom, milk, and sugar. Blend until thoroughly combined and refrigerate before serving.

Papaya Bars

In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, butter, and salt until crumbly. Press this dough into a baking dish, and bake until the edges are set. In a bowl, whisk papaya puree, eggs, flour, sugar, salt, lemon juice, and honey until fully combined. Pour the filling onto the partially baked crust and bake in the oven again until the filling is set.

Papaya Jam

In a large bowl, combine papaya chunks, granulated sugar, and lemon juice. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 3 hours, so that sugar and lemon can break down the papaya. In a saucepan, cook this mixture for 20 – 30 minutes, until the papaya begins to gel. Fifteen minutes into cooling, stir in vanilla extract. Blitz the jam with a hand blender and store the jam in sterilized glass jars.

Papaya Avocado Salsa

This salsa is made with bright flavors from lime and onion and is great for serving with seafood. In a large bowl, combine onion, lime juice, salt, avocados, papaya, and cilantro. Toss to combine and serve on its own or over grilled fish tacos.

Thai Green Papaya Salad

This traditional Thai salad uses unripened papaya, which has a very mild flavor, similar to a cucumber. To make it, start by grinding garlic, Thai chiles, palm sugar, cashews, and lime juice in a food processor. In a large bowl, add julienned green papaya, cherry tomatoes, and green beans that have been cut in half. Add the chile and fish sauce mixture to the bowl and toss with your hands to incorporate. For a vegan version of the salad, substitute the fish sauce for soy sauce.

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