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All About Papayas

In addition to high nutrition and great taste, papayas have an interesting history.  In Cuba, for instance, this word isn't said in polite company; they call it fruta bomba (bomb fruit).  It doesn't grow on trees, but on a hollow single stem plant that can grow two stories high but is usually smaller.  Some plants have both male and female flowers, most are one or the other, and reputedly they can sometimes change sex. 

They range from pale yellow to deep orange, and believe me, the orange ones have a better flavor and more nutrients.  Tiny ones are imported, the size of a large pear, and they can also grow as long as 15 or 20 inches!  They need sun and moist mulched soil with good drainage, and will not withstand freezing.

Papaya can be used to tenderize meat.  The leaves have various reputed medical benefits, and a tea made from it is used as an insecticide.  In some places they are eaten as well.  The seeds have a taste similar to capers, and are eaten by some, but also reportedly can be toxic.  Green papayas are also used in some recipes;  I have eaten them in candied chunks with cream cheese, as a preserve, and seen but not tried shredded in salad. 

When my Uncle Theo was given a virtual death sentence by his cardiologist in his mid-seventies, he didn't give up.  He went to a naturopathic gerontologist (back then considered quacks by most).  Among other dietary changes and supplements, he was told to drink an 8 oz. glass of papaya juice, with its fiber, twice a day.  Since he lived to an active 103, something must have worked!  He never doubted that papaya juice was some part of it.

Aside from being delicious, papaya's reputation as a health food is mostly true. It is rich in antioxidants, has way over a day's serving of vitamin C, as well as vitamins A, E, K, folate, potassium, fiber, and much more.  Read about some its health benefits:

Recipes:

 

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