Pretty straight forward title right? I’ve been asked SO many questions about papaya lately. I mean, I have posted about papaya almost everyday so it makes sense that more questions would come in as I post more. But I wanted to put together a giant post here all about papaya. To break some myths, talk about the benefits, answer questions, etc.
So let’s chat about Papaya, ya?
If you didn’t know, papaya is a fruit that grows best in tropical and subtropical climates. Think: South Florida, Hawaii Central and South America, and South East Asia. In general, it’s a pretty easy fruit to grow, with very little pests to worry about (especially if you’re not mono-cropping). And because the size and shape of the tree, it’s a pretty easy tree to grow in most yards. But since most of you guys wont be growing it, let’s talk about eating it…
The fruit itself is ridiculously high in vitamin C (as most fruits are) and has a wonderful dose of enzymes to help you break down and digest food.
But wont the enzymes damage your belly since papaya is used to break down meat?
No, you’re fine. Unless you have an allergy, papaya is generally completely and totally safe to eat. Those enzymes won’t break down your skin or stomach lining. They will help you break down the other food that enters your gut. The enzyme found in papaya is called Papain. Nowadays you can buy the enzymes at basically and supermarket and pharmacy– it’s pretty widespread knowledge that consuming high enzyme foods for you is good– whether in pill or in fresh food form. But I obviously, I always opt for fresh out of nature food before anything else.
Papaya is incredibly good for you.
Other than being rich in vitamin C and Enzymes. It’s also rich with water, fiber, and other important vitamins. Other than that, it’s incredibly easy to digest. And it helps improve your overall digestion too. So if you have trouble digesting foods and absorbing those important vitamins, papaya is a great place to start. Literally. I start each morning I can with a papaya.
But maybe you’re thinking: But I’ve tried papaya and it’s weird smelling and disgusting.
Trueeeee. Some totally can be. But it’s likely that you didn’t get a good papaya. Like any fruit, you have to pick a ripe, well-grown fruit to have it taste good! A well-grown, organic, tree ripened papaya is freaking delicious. Heaven on earth guys.
So how do you buy / pick a good papaya?
Well, unfortunately, the best way to do this is to buy the most delicious papaya is to find a local one. Locally grown fruit is always the most delicious fruit. Why? Because the further the fruit has to ship the earlier the fruit is picked off the tree. And the best fruit is fully ripened or at least partially ripened on the plant, THEN picked.
What to do if you’re not in an area that grows papaya? Well, when considering to buy a papaya you want to find one that has already begun to ripen. If you buy one that is all green– then more than likely it’ll stay green ,then rot. In order for it to ripen correctly you want one that has begun to turn pink when on tree.
Can you eat green / unripe papaya?
Totally. It will still have some of the enzymatic qualities to it, but it tastes totally and completely different. Better for savory dishes. HERE is a green papaya recipe you can try 🙂 Be warned that if you have some sort of latex allergy, you should avoid though! Unripe papayas get super milky with latex when you cut them open. But even fresh ripe papaya (as well as the plant) can have latex properties. So if you’re allergic to latex, you should avoid papaya!
But can you eat the seeds? (Probably my most asked question)
YES. You totally can. I LOVE the seeds.
But what do papaya seeds taste like?
Well, they are spicy little pops of goodness. I would compare them most to a nasturtium taste. Spicy and almost peppery. It’s a really nice contrast to the sweet papaya. I love eating the two together.
Are papaya seeds good for you?
YES AGAIN. The entire papaya is good for you. In some cultures they even juice the leaves to drink. Papaya seeds and fruit (as well as the leaves) are highly anti-parasitic. This makes papaya the perfect fruit to eat while traveling. You can kill off any nasty bugs that might reach your stomach just by eating the fruit and seeds. You do have to make sure to give the seeds a good chew through though, as they might go in one end and out the other if you’re stomach doesn’t digest them fully. Like all fruits and many fruit seeds, papaya is anti inflammatory, helps in detox/digestion, and can help fight off infections.
If you don’t like spicy food, you may not like the seeds, but many people are big fans of the seeds.
Are there any problems with eating papaya seeds?
Just like anything else, there can be. Papaya seeds are mostly harmless, but if it’s your first time trying them out, you may just want to stick to a bit of seeds and work your way up to be a bigger portion. Since they are highly detoxifying, you might feel some detox effects eating too much at once (stomach ache, headache) if you’re infection load is high or if your stomach is weak.
Again, generally it’s not a problem to eat them, but if you have a sensitive stomach or trouble detoxing, you might want to start small.
How do you know when a papaya is ripe?
This is a tough one, because the color of papaya can vary a lot. But typically a deep orange color indicates the ripeness. You want almost zero green on the skin. Some spotting of green might be okay, but no large patches of green for sure. The best way to decide the ripeness will be by feeling it. If the papaya skin has become super soft, it’s a good sign. You want the skin to be pretty thin– almost so soft that you can stick a finger through it easily. If you’ve got a super orange/pink, soft papaya, you’ve got a good one.
If you’re buying a store bough papaya far from where papayas grow you might find the smell to be a bit weird or the taste to be a bit watery, but that’s okay. It’s still edible, just means you gotta go closer to the equator for a better one — or have a friend down south to send you a good one 😉
Is it safe to eat papaya with mold on it?
Sometimes you might encounter bits of mold growing on the skin of your papaya. THAT IS OKAY. Trust me— think of it as a ripe plantain– the riper, the better. So if you have a spot of mold growing on the outside, don’t fret– it’s more than likely still delicious (or even more delicious) on the inside. Small bits of mold on the outside rarely indicate a problem on the inside. Slice it open and see for yourself! It will be (or should be) super bright and soft on the inside with black (sometimes grey-ish seeds).
What’s the best way to eat papaya?
With a spoon.
Bahaha. But for real, it’s a great fruit to slice in half and spoon away at. I typically eat half a large papaya in one sitting. But that’s me, and you guys know I’m nuts about papaya. I could eat an entire large one in one sitting too, haha. But for most, I think one half of a store-bought papaya shouldn’t be a problem. They tend to run much smaller than the farmers market ones.
Adding a squeeze of lime is another great option.
Papayas make perfect bowls. Scoop out the papaya and put your favorite banana ice cream, oatmeal, smoothie bowl mix, or fruit inside. Yum yum yum. OR….
My all time favorite way to eat papaya:
With passion fruit scooped on top! And even better if you have coconut yogurt to go with it. Yum yum yum! So freaking delicious!
They’re great as is, but they pair super well with more tart fruits to balance the sweetness. As mentioned, you can also eat them green too, but that’s more savory dishes.
Oh and papaya juice is delicious too. With a splash of orange or lime? Mmm mm.
Other fun papaya facts:
- If you ever go to Cuba, “papaya” is actually a bad word. So don’t use it. In Cuba, papaya should be called “fruta bomba.” Don’t like dumb or like a jerk and say the wrong word 😉
- If you ever find yourself growing papaya you can chop off a branch and use it as a sustainable straw 🙂 Because papayas truly are magical 🙂
- The papaya plant is actually a giant herb, not a tree. It’s deceiving I know. But this explains the medicinal properties within the entire plant, not just the fruit.
- The fruit is actually considered a berry. Another deceiving, but true fun fact.
- Like many trees, papaya trees can be male or female. Male plants need to be pollinated. Female plants are badass and do not require such attention. (The fruit will actually taste better if the female plant is pollinated. But let’s pretend that’s not the case).
- Many commercial varieties of papayas are no GMO’ed, so like with all food, it’s best to only buy organic papaya or papaya grown from a local farm.
Okay friends! There are some facts about a truly delicious and healthful fruit 🙂 If you have more questions, just ask. Happy to answer! Not go find a delicious papaya or have a friend send you one!