Once considered exotic, papayas are now available year round with a slight seasonal peak in early summer. This tropical fruit is sweet, colourful and can be enjoyed in a variety of recipes! The flesh of the ripe papaya is bright orange-pink.
How to Select Papaya:
Like an avocado changes colour as it ripens, so do papayas. Select fruit that are mainly yellow with a bit of green if you want to let them ripen at home a few days before use. If you wish to eat it right away, look for a fully ripe papaya, which will have bright yellow skin and a sweet aroma. Ripe papayas will feel firm but will yield to gentle pressure.
Pick a fruit that has smooth skin with no bruises or cuts. However, a few black spots are perfectly okay and will not affect the flavour of the flesh. Avoid very soft fruit unless you intend to use it in a puree.
How to Store Papaya:
It’s best to store ripe papaya in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week. If you need it to ripen before eating, leave it in a fruit bowl or on the counter, away from direct sunlight and at room temperature. To ripen faster, place them in an open, brown paper bag. The warmer the room, the faster the fruit will ripen.
How to Prepare Papaya:
Wash papayas before preparing. Use a sharp knife on a cutting board to slice the fruit open lengthwise. This should be relatively easy if it is ripe. Scoop out the seeds. Set seeds aside if you intend to use them. The seeds are also edible although most people discard them. They have a bitter-peppery taste and can be used in place of black pepper or even capers.
Once seeds are removed scoop out the flesh using a spoon or melon baller. Alternatively, cut or peel the skin to remove it and cut the flesh into cubes.
Like most tropical fruit, papayas are delicious enjoyed raw. However, they can also be added to smoothies or pureed to use as a sauce over ice cream, vanilla cheesecake, yogurt or in your morning oatmeal. They can also be baked, grilled or cooked and used in recipes like BBQ sauces or chutneys. See Serving Ideas for recipe links.
How to freeze
Wash and peel the papaya, slice it lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut into one inch cubes. Flash freeze the cubes by spreading them out on a baking tray. When frozen, transfer into a freezer grade plastic bag or reusable airtight container. Alternatively, make a sugar solution by boiling four cups of water with two cups of sugar until the sugar has fully dissolved. Then cool and cover the cut papaya before freezing in an airtight bag or container. Use within a year.
Note that when thawed, the fruit will be soft. It is best used in smoothies or pureed applications rather than eating in place of fresh papaya.
- Use scooped out papaya halves as a serving dish for salads or stir fries.
- Papaya seeds are edible! Use a pestle and mortar to crush them and sprinkle over tropical fruit salads. Another use is to substitute them with recipes calling for capers.
- Ripe and green papayas are an excellent meat tenderizer.
- Like pineapple, avoid adding papaya to jellies because they will not set.
- Incorporate papaya to fruit salad just before serving. Otherwise, it can make the other fruit soft.
- Don’t throw away very soft papaya. Simply blend and add the puree to yogurt, ice cream, on top of pancakes or oatmeal.
- One medium papaya should yield 1 to 1-1/2 cups of chopped fruit.
Once cut, ripe papaya is sometimes confused with mango but they are an entirely different fruit. Papaya are significantly larger, spherical or pear-shaped and usually around 6-8 inches in length.
They are typically eaten when ripe and sweet, although green unripe papaya can also be enjoyed grated or thinly sliced. Green, unripe papaya is often used in place of vegetables in thai inspired dishes or slaws.
Papaya Goes Well With:
Herbs and Spices: lemon and lime, ginger, cinnamon, honey, cloves, nutmeg, chili, curry, chives, cilantro, mint, rosemary, jalapeno
Dairy and protein: cream, ice cream, yogurt, fish, shrimp, legumes, pork, chicken
Produce: coconut, orange, pineapple, mango, pineapple, banana, passion fruit, most berries, red onions, peppers
- In many recipes, papaya can be substituted in place of mango. Try a papaya salsa or chutney, or even a papaya “lassi”.
- Add papaya with chicken, fish or shrimp for a pop of colour and hint of sweetness.
- Bake ripe papaya with a sprinkle of brown sugar and rum for a taste explosion.
- Grate or thinly slice unripe, green or ripe papaya for a delicious coleslaw.
According to the Canadian Nutrient File, papaya contains a great number of your daily-recommended intake of nutrients, including: 103% of Vitamin C, 17% of folate, 7% of fibre (1.8 g), 4% of magnesium, 7% of phosphorus, 5% of Vitamin A, 3% of Vitamin K, 75 µg lutein and zeaxanthin and 761 µg of beta cryptozanthin—antioxidants that may help combat free radicals.