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Papayas

The papaya is a fruit that has been thought to have originated in Mexico or South America. The papaya fruit has a bit of a musky flavor that is mildly sweet, and it also has a texture similar to that of warm butter. Some people love the taste and feel of the papaya, others not so much; it’s an acquired taste. There are two varieties of Papayas, the Hawaiian papaya, and the Mexican Papaya. The Hawaiian papaya produces small to medium-sized fruit, aptly named “Solo Papaya.” In contrast, the Mexican papaya has larger fruit, around two to three times the size of its Hawaiian counterpart.

  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Order: Brassicales
  • Family: Caricacear
  • Genus: Carica
  • Species: C. papaya
  • Binomial name: Carica papaya

Papaya Trivia

  • The papaya contains an enzyme that is commonly used in meat tenderizing powders called papain.
  • The papaya is thought to have skin moisturizing and whitening properties and is used as a component to beauty soaps throughout Asia.
  • In some parts of the world, the papaya leaves are made into a tea to protect against malaria.
  • The papaya variant is Hawaii is the first genetically modified food to be introduced into the United States food supply.
  • The papaya fruit is also known as “Paw Paw.”

Papaya Buying Guide

Choosing the right papaya is pretty straightforward. Unripe papayas have a green color, and ripe papayas are partly yellow or orange-yellow, depending on the variety. Choose papayas that are firm but has a little give to them when pressed with your fingers. Be careful when squeezing papayas because if you press too hard, you might puncture the skin.

Unlike other fruits, papayas should not be soft at the stem end. Avoid papayas that have any soft spots and visible bruising.

Ripe papayas have no smell present anywhere, even if you hold it to your nose. Once a papaya has a noticeable smell, check it for damage to see if there are any breaks in the skin.

Papaya Production & Farming in Texas

Consistent commercial production of papayas has been limited to Hawaii, with almost 95% of production occurring on “The Big Island.” Papayas are also grown in California and Florida, with most of their crops going directly to their local markets.

In Texas, most of the papaya production is centralized around the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The supply of the fruit has not been consistent as the plants have to be renewed and replanted every few years because of the cooler temperatures and the frequent freeze damage.

If you’re lucky enough to find Texas-grown papayas, grab it because you’ll never know whether there will be another crop the following season or if they will focus on re-growing their plants.

Pesticides:

Papayas are relatively free from pesticides, with over 80% of those tested having been found pesticide-free. The skin of the papaya also protects it from pesticide contamination. It is worth noting though that Hawaiian papayas have been genetically modified to resist a virus that destroys papayas.

If GMO foods are a concern, it’s better to go with organic papayas if you can find them. Plus, organic papayas are tastier and healthier for you.

Geography:

Papayas are a tropical fruit, and they thrive in warm and humid conditions. In Texas, only the coastal and southern areas show promise in papaya production, but even this is limited due to harsh winds and freezing weather from time to time.

Papayas can survive in almost any type of soil as long as it is well-drained. Papayas are shallow-rooted and are very susceptible to rot, so drainage is a significant issue. Standing water is a definite no when it comes to papaya plants.

With adequate cold protection, you can grow your papayas, and starting a plant off is as easy as dropping seeds into the ground with the right qualities.

Packaging:

Since papayas are easily bruised once they ripen, they are picked when they are still firm and just starting to show signs of ripening. For transport, they are usually individually wrapped with newspapers just to add an extra layer of protection.

Eating Papayas

To prepare papayas, give the fruit a quick rinse to remove any dirt, then cut into halves vertically through where the stem was connected. Scoop out the seeds and the mushy part in the middle then enjoy the fruit directly from the skin.

Some people find the scent of the papaya to be a bit unpalatable. This is due to the papain enzyme that reminds some people of rotten meat or fruit. To overcome this, a dash of lemon or lime juice will do the trick. This neutralizes the enzyme and gets rid of the smell in a snap.

Storage:

Slightly unripe papayas can be stored on the countertop until they ripen fully. Once they are ripened, they can be stored whole in the fridge for up to a week. For already cut papayas, they can be stored inside of the refrigerator for one or two days before they start to degrade.

Papayas can also be frozen. To freeze them, remove the flesh from the skin and freeze in a single layer before transferring to a freezer-safe container. They can be stored for a few months before the quality of the flesh deteriorates.

Cooking:

Ripe papayas are usually enjoyed fresh and direct from the skin. Papayas can also be added to fruit salads or garden salads to add a unique flavor contrast.

Frozen ripe papayas are the perfect smoothie add-ons. They work just like frozen bananas. Just add the frozen papayas to any smoothie for a burst of flavor and buttery smooth texture.

Unripe papayas can be used in soups and stews. The papain in it makes the meat in stews and soups more tender, and unripe papayas only impart a mild sweet taste without the overpowering smell from ripe papayas.

Nutrition:

The papaya is an acquired taste; some people love it as is, some people need to neutralize the smell first before consuming, while others can’t stomach it. Whatever the case, papaya is a very healthy fruit and is enjoyed by a lot of people.

  • Carbs
    • Papayas are a low-calorie fruit. Most of the calories from the papayas come from carbs, which are mostly natural sugars and protein.
    • Since it’s mostly simple sugars, the glycemic index of papaya is at 60 with the glycemic load at 9, which makes it right in the middle range. This means that people with diabetes should exercise care when eating papayas.
  • Fiber
    • Papayas are a good source of fiber, which is vital in maintaining gut balance and proper digestion.
    • On top of the fiber, papaya also contains papain that helps break down proteins, which in turn aids in the digestive process.
    • Papain has also been found to help with gluten digestion, and studies have shown that gluten intolerance symptoms were reduced with no adverse side effects seen.
  • Vitamins and minerals:
    • Papayas are an excellent source of Vitamin C, with one serving of papayas providing more than the RDI of Vitamin C.
      • Vitamin C is an excellent antioxidant that protects your cells from damage and promotes faster cell healing.
    • The combination of Vitamins A, C, and E in papayas provide powerful antioxidant effects that help decrease the risk in cancer and decrease the oxidative stress on our bodies.

When Are Papayas in Season in Texas?

One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas.

Nutrition

DV%

  • Serving Size: 1 Serving
  • Calories: 54.6 3%
  • Carbs: 13.7g 5%
  • Sugar: 8.3g 0
  • Fiber: 2.5g 10%
  • Protein: 0.9g 2%
  • Fat: 0.2g 0%
  • Saturated Fat: 0.1g 0%
  • Trans Fat 0g 0%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 4.2mg 0%
  • Vitamin C 86.5mg 144%
  • Vitamin A 1531IU 31%
  • Calcium 33.6mg 3%
  • Iron 0.1mg 1%
  • Potassium 360mg 10%
  • Vitamin E 1mg 5%
  • Vitamin K 3.6mcg 5%
  • Vitamin B6 0mg 1%
  • Folate 53.2mcg 13%
  • Magnesium 14mg 3%
  • Phosphorus 7mg 1%
  • Manganese 0mg 1%
  • Copper 0mg 1%
  • Zinc 0.1mg 1%

Seasonality

When are apples in season in Texas?

  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec

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