Papaya (Carica papaya), known locally as pawpaw, is from a family of plants that have a milky white sap or latex. Originally from southern Mexico, Central America and northern South America, papaya is now cultivated in most countries with a tropical climate.
The ripe papaya is a rich orange colour with yellow or pink hues. The ripe fruit is delicious – usually eaten raw, without the skin or seeds. It is an ideal food for invalids because the flesh is easy to chew and swallow. The indigenous peoples of the Caribbean are recorded to have eaten ripe papaya after meals believing it to promote digestion. They knew from observation that it had properties that aided the digestion of food.
Ripe papaya is an excellent source of vitamin C and flavanoids. It is a very good source of the anti-oxidant carotene which is converted to vitamin A in the body. It is a good source of folate, potassium, and dietary fiber and contains vitamin E, various B vitamins, pantothenic acid and vitamin K. It contains calcium and iron in small amounts and traces of iron, phospherous, zinc, copper, selenium and manganese.
Ripe papaya is often eaten opened and de seeded. Add a little lime juice for a change of flavour. Ripe papaya can be blended into smoothies and juices. I like to create papaya balls with a melon baller and add them to fruit salads. Add them just before serving so the other fruits do not get soft. Another of my favourite ways to eat papaya is as raw pawpaw porridge; a flavourful healthy start to the day. Papayas have a relatively high amount of pectin, which can be used to make jams and jellies.
Recently dried ripe papaya has become popular as a snack food; there is 1 or 2 companies on island doing this and it is the most amazing healthy snack. This is an area we need to expand in Dominica. When buying dried papaya buy the darker unsugared and sulphured kind – much more nutritious.
The seeds of the papaya are edible and have a hot, spicy taste. They are ground and eaten as a condiment; rather like black pepper.
The unripe green fruit can be eaten raw or cooked; like a vegetable in curries, soups and stews.
Green papaya does not contain carotene but has a nutritional content similar to ripe papaya except it is a significantly better source of potassium and a slightly better source of iron.
In some countries the leaves are eaten steamed or boiled like spinach
In others the flower buds are sautéed or stir fried.
Historically the papaya has been used medicinally in many different ways.
The latex of the papaya is especially rich in the enzyme called papain that catalyzes the breakdown of proteins. This enzyme is in all the parts of the plant but concentrated most strongly in the green papaya. It can be used in an incredibly wide variety of ways.
Papain is used in: bio-chemical laboratory research, commercial meat tenderizers, clotting milk, shrink proofing wool, toothpastes, mints and enzyme-action cleansing agents for soft contact lenses.
Papain is sold in tablet form as a digestive enzyme. It is said to be helpful in: digestive disorders such as acidosis, heartburn, indigestion, inflammatory bowel disorders and some doctors recommend it for stimulation of the appetite. No need to take a papain tablet to aid digestion of proteins with green pawpaw around.
Other experts recommend it for complications of diabetes, stimulation of immune response, some cancer treatments, sinusitis, arthritis, trauma, edemas, inflammation and to inhibit bacterial growth. Papain exhibits pain relieving properties and the US food and drug administration (FDA) has approved its medicinal use to ease the discomfort of slipped discs. Those with celiac disease, who have difficulty digesting wheat protein, can often tolerate it if it is treated with crude papain. It may help dyspeptic patients as papain can help in the digestion of proteins.
It has been used in: cleansing and healing of wounds, prevention of scar formation, the Mayans wrapped wounds with the leaf. Papain can be made into an immediate home remedy treatment for jellyfish, stingray and insect stings, wounds and many other skin conditions. The highest concentration of this substance is on the skin of unripe papayas. Cut the skin and apply it directly to the affected area.
Papaya seeds are traditionally used as a vermifuge, or dewormer. I have eaten them over my lifetime in small amounts once in a while as a preventative of parasitic infestation.
In some areas of Dominica women have traditionally used the seeds as a contraceptive. Recent studies have proven this to be valid with one study on rabbits showing the seeds to be a reversable contraceptive. Sperm concentration showed a gradual decline, reached severe oligospermia (fewer than 20 million/mL) after 75 days treatment, and attained uniform azoospermia after 120 days treatment. Sperm motility and viability were severely affected after 45 days treatment and reached less than 1% after 75 days treatment. The effects were comparable in the two dose regimens and were restored to normal 45 days after withdrawal of the treatment. No toxicity was evident; the libido of the treated animals was unaffected yet the fertility rate was zero.
Once again we see medical science is often based on traditional medicine concepts.
So many interesting ways to more completely utilize the papaya we grow here.
The small orange papayas with seeds are the heritage papayas of the island. They are incredibly flavourful and filled with carotene. Purchasing them instead of the huge pinkish and light orange papayas without seeds will help to conserve the heritage foods of the island.
The scent of the ripe papaya is offensive to some people.
The latex fluid can cause irritation and provoke allergic reaction in some people.
The papaya fruit and leaves contain carpaine, an anthelmintic alkaloid which could be dangerous in high doses.
Excessive consumption of papaya, like of carrots, can cause the yellowing of soles and palms.
Medical research in animals has shown contraceptive and abortive properties but most experts say papaya will not cause miscarriage in small, ripe amounts.
In traditional animal medicine papaya latex and/or seeds have been used as a dewormer. Recent studies have shown the validity of this folk remedy also.
Carica papaya was the first transgenic fruit tree to have its genome deciphered.
In the 1990s, the papaya ringspot virus threatened to wipe out Hawaii’s papaya industry completely; badly affecting the farmers with huge fields mono cropped with papaya. The small farmer who planted their papaya interspersed with other crops were not affected nearly as badly. Genetically altered plants were created that had some of the virus’s DNA incorporated into the DNA of the plant and gave patented ownership to the seed companies. Farmers were no longer allowed to save their own seeds. And while the two commercially available genetically modified varieties, “SunUp” and “Rainbow,” have seemed to have helped control the virus, farmers have found the genetically altered varieties appear more susceptible to funguses than the most common “natural” papaya. UH researchers knew the new SunUp and Rainbow strains were more susceptible to phytophthera when they released the new seed to the public. An Agronomist Steve Ferreira told the Hawaii Island Journal about that susceptibility in April of 2001.
A new study has raised questions about whether the altered genes in the new papayas could be allergenic to humans.
In 2004, it was found that papayas throughout Hawaii had experienced hybridization with the genetically modified varieties and that many seed stocks were contaminated. Small farmers have had to destroy 1000’s of plants or be sued by the owners of the genetically modified plants. By 2010, 80% of Hawaiian papaya plants were genetically modified.
Plenty Papaya Problems
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