Papaya is one of the delightful tastes of the tropics. In Hawaii, you’ll find rows of local papaya growers at farmers markets selling this pear-shaped, sweet, orange-fleshed fruit. Although it is believed that papayas originated in southern Mexico and Central America, most of the papayas you find in the supermarkets today are from Hawaii or Mexico.
The Hawaiian species are called Solo and are smaller than the Mexican papayas. The average sized Solo papaya weighs about a pound and has yellow skin when ripe. The flesh of the papaya is orange or pinkish. The Mexican papayas are very large and can weigh as much as 20 pounds! Their taste is less intense than the Hawaiian papayas but also very good.
The peak growing season for papayas is early summer and fall; however, they are grown throughout the year. Rest assured, you will find papayas in your supermarket any time you want to indulge in this highly nutritious fruit.
Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits
Papayas are low in calories, fat free and packed with nutrients that are great for your health. An average-sized papaya (276 g) is about 119 calories.
One of the greatest benefits of papaya is its vitamin C content. A half of a small papaya can provide about 150% of the dietary recommended intake of vitamin C.
Papayas are also a very good source of folate which is particularly important for pregnant women.
This fruit is also high in:
- Vitamin A
- pantothenic acid
Because of its richness of antioxidants (carotenes, vitamin C and flavonoids), eating papayas may be helpful in:
- Promoting cardiovascular health;
- Providing protection against colon cancer (along with folate and vitamin E);
- Protection against macular degeneration;
- Overall immune support.
It is believed that the antioxidant strength is greatest when the fruit is fully ripened.
Papayas also contain digestive enzymes (papain and chymopapain) which may be excellent for overall digestive health and for reducing inflammation. Papain is used as a meat tenderizer as it is effective at breaking down the fibers of meat.
The seeds of the papaya are usually discarded but they can be eaten and have a pepper flavor or tang. The seeds are used to make papaya dressing. Here is a great recipe from Eat Life Whole.
Finally, a warning for people who have a latex allergy. Papayas contain chitinases, also found in avocados and bananas, which may cause an allergic reaction for some people. If you have a latex allergy, check with your health care practitioner before consuming papayas as you may have a reaction to this fruit.
Our favorite way to eat papaya is to scoop the flesh out with a spoon! Cut the papaya in half, discard the seeds or save them for preparing a dressing, then sprinkle some lime or lemon juice on the papaya and scoop away.
We’ve sought out a couple of good papaya recipes for you to try:
From Delicious Living Magazine
Halibut Tacos with Papaya-Cucumber Salsa
A little twist to the traditional fish tacos. This recipe sounds delicious and is an easy pre-prep meal that is grilled so you can enjoy some of the good outdoor weather – when we finally get it in Canada!
From Food Network Kitchen
Spicy Papaya Guacamole
Want to bring a different appetizer to your next gathering? Here’s an easy guacamole recipe with some sweetness mixed with tangy and spicy.
Webmd also has a number of great papaya recipes that sound delightful. Browse through these recipes and try one. Also remember to try our recipe of the week.
I eat a papaya daily. They are wonderful as their enzymes have helped with my digestion issues. They are also sweet which also helps with my sweet tooth! Tried the papaya seed dressing… it was very good!! Never thought of making my own papaya seed dressing before, but now will never buy store bought ones again. Thanks!!
Thanks for sharing, Cindy. Glad to hear that the papaya dressing was good. I have papaya seeds in the fridge that I’ve been saving to try out the dressing. Will make it later today!
I love love love papayas … they are so much cheaper to buy in Hawaii … Sally
Aloha, Sally. As you know, papayas are my favorite as well! I get my fill of them in Hawaii as Canadian prices are even steeper than prices on mainland US.