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Papaya - Maridol

Also called papitas or pawpaws, papayas are native to the tropics of Central and South America, where they were discovered by Spanish conquistadors and eventually introduced into Asia. Papayas are grown commercially in Brazil, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Mexico, and elsewhere.

You'll see three main varieties on the market here. Sunrise, Solo, and Maridol. Sunrise and Solo range in color from golden yellow to orange-pink, the Maridol is generally an orange-red. Different varieties come in different shapes and sizes and can grow to be quite large, generally only the smaller ones are exported. All varieties have a central cavity filled with black seeds that resemble large caviar. The Maridol papaya is sometimes referred to as the tree melon because of its size.

Season

Because they're grown in different parts of the world, papayas are available year round. They're most abundant in the spring and fall.

Selecting

Look for firm papayas without bruises or scars. The fruit should at least be starting to turn yellow, papayas that have started to ripen will continue to ripen at home. Totally green papayas will never ripen, although the green fruit can be cooked and served as a vegetable.

Storing

If the papaya has just started to turn yellow, leave it at room temperature until all the green is gone, which can take from three to five days. Don't refrigerate it before it's ripe. A fully ripe papaya will keep a few days in the refrigerator, but it should be eaten as soon as possible. Freezing is not recommended because of the fragile texture of the flesh.

Preparing

Papayas can be served plain or sprinkled with a little lime or lemon juice. Slice the fruit lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and eat the flesh with a spoon. Papayas are easy to peel and can be chopped or pureed for a variety of uses. They are good seeded, sliced, and wrapped with prosciutto as you would wrap slices of melon. The flesh can be coarsely chopped and added to shrimp or chicken salad, sliced into fruit salad, or pureed and mixed with other fruit juices.

The seeds themselves can be dried, ground like pepper, and used as a seasoning and tenderizer for meat or in salad dressings. Like pineapples and kiwis, papayas contain papain, the enzyme used in commercially prepared meat tenderizers. Both the seeds and the flesh will tenderize meats. Don't use papaya in gelatin-it will prevent jelling.

For a tasty, nutritious shake, combine one seeded, peeled papaya, 3/4 cup of milk, the juice of a lime, three tablespoons honey, and four ice cubes in the container of a blender. Blend at high speed until smooth. Don't try to store this, the enzymes in papaya will cause the milk to curdle in the space of ten hours.

Recipes

Papaya Cheese Pie

Other recipes from Produce Pete.

   

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