Fruit Facts: Papaya

Healthy Recipes and Nutrition, Nutrition
on November 14, 2011

A tropical fruit, the papaya originated from Mexico and Central America. In the 1800s, the fruit was introduced to Hawaii. If you live in the United States, chances are the papayas in your supermarket were grown in Hawaii, as it's the only state to grow the fruit commercially.

Good for you. Dole calls the papaya a super food because when you eat just one serving, about one-half of the fruit, your skin will benefit from its high concentration of vitamins C and A. One small papaya offers more than 150 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. The nutrient-rich papaya also contains more than 2 grams of fiber, plus calcium, iron and beta-carotene.

Ripe and ready. The Hawaiian papaya will have yellow skin when it's ripe. A ripe papaya will yield to a gentle touch. If the fruit is hard, it's not ripe. The ripened papaya's inside flesh is usually orange, although some varieties have a pinkish-orange flesh. It also contains small edible black seeds. The fruit usually weighs about one pound, unless it's the Mexican papaya, which can weigh in at as much as ten pounds!

Sweet treat. The pear-shaped papaya is sweet and juicy. suggests the sweetest part of the fruit is at the end farthest from the stem. Its flavor can seem similar to cantaloupe. Enjoy a ripe papaya raw, diced and delicious. Papaya can be added to smoothies and blended with creamy yogurt, mango and banana for a healthy treat.

At the ready. When you purchase your papaya ripe, when it's mostly yellow in color, it should be eaten within a day or two. A ripe papaya can be stored in the refrigerator in a paper bag for about five days before becoming overripe. If you select your papaya when it's colored yellow and green, it can be ripened inside a paper bag with an apple.

Fun facts. The papaya is a tree fruit known by several names. These names include the tree melon, paw paw or papaw, and the mamao. The papaya tree reaches heights of about twelve feet and sports flowers. Its leaves can be steamed and eaten. In some countries, tea is made from the leaves as well.