What is a Papaya?
Papaya are large fruits, actually a member of the berry family. They are cultivated in most tropical countries. The two most common types of papaya are Mexican papayas and Hawaiian papayas. Hawaiian papayas are most readily available types found in supermarkets (weighing an average of 1 pound), but if you see a huge papaya (up to 10 pounds!) it’s likely from Mexico.
Papayas may also have different colored flesh inside. One type has sweet reddish orange flesh (called red papaya in Australia), and the other yellow flesh (called yellow pawpaw in Australia).
What Does Papaya Taste Like?
The flavor of ripe papayas can range from mild to quite sweet, and often gets compared to mangos, apricots, and cantaloupe. Green papayas have little flavor, and take on the flavors of the ingredients they are mixed with.
Papaya contains a large amount of an enzyme called papain. This enzyme gives it a tenderizing property, but also can give it a slightly vomit-like smell or texture that some people find off-putting. It doesn’t bother true papaya fans, and people who grew up eating papaya usually love it, while people unfamiliar with the fruit might find it too strong.
The flesh, when ripe, has a somewhat silky, creamy, buttery texture.
How to Eat Green Papaya
Unripe or green papayas are also used often in tropical cooking, particularly Southeast Asian cuisine. Either variety works in this preparation. However, note that unripe papaya has have negative dietary effects. Unless you know it suits you, it’s best to make sure you cook it.
The middle of the papaya contains small black shiny seeds. Crunchy papaya seeds are edible, and have a peppery flavor. They are used in salad dressings and as a seasoning or finishing touch to a dish.
How to Use Papaya
Papaya is great in tropical fruit salads (or any fruits salads for that matter). It’s also terrific in smoothies and fruit salsas.
How to Cut a Papaya
Cut the papaya in half lengthwise.
Scoop out the seeds (you can discard them, or save them for use I salad dressings or other dishes).
Peel off the skin with a vegetable peeler.
Slice the papaya as you like it, crosswise, lengthwise, or into cubes.