Healthy Papaya Riviera Nayarit Style
Here on the Riviera Nayarit in Mexico we are blessed with some of the most amazing fruits, one being the papaya, which is one of the most nutritious of all foods and found growing all over La Penita and throughout the region. There is nothing better than going out to your yard to pick a fresh Papaya, cut it up in chunks, or put it in the blender for an awesome smoothie with yogurt and a some ice. Taking only 6 months to grow from a seed that you get right from the fruit makes it easy and fun to grow your own Papaya tree right here in La Penita Mexico!
Papaya, which is the fruit of the Carica Papaya tree, is native to southern Mexico and Central America and is considered a “Super Food” now, yet the indigenous peoples of the Americas knew that this fruit was special thousands of years ago.
Culinary, Medicinal, and Practical Uses of Papaya
A small papaya contains about 300% of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin C. As with eating too many carrots, eating too much papaya can cause carotenemia, the yellowing of the soles of the feet and the palms. It is temporary and goes away once excessive amounts of papaya are no longer being eaten. Resembling peppercorns, papaya seeds are edible, having a peppery, bitter flavor. They are sometimes used in salads and can be ground up and used as a substitute for black pepper.
Unripe, green papaya fruit and the leaves of the papaya tree contain an enzyme called papain. Papain has been used as a natural meat tenderizer for thousands of years and today is an ingredient in many commercial meat tenderizers.
Papaya has several medicinal properties due to it’s high content in proteolytic emzymes, especially papain. Papain is used for pain and swelling, as well as fluid retention following trauma and surgery. It is used as a digestive aid and for treatment of parasitic worms, inflammation of the throat and pharynx, shingles (herpes zoster) symptoms, ongoing diarrhea, hay fever, runny nose, and psoriasis. Papain is also used along with conventional treatments for tumors. Some people apply papain directly to the skin to treat infected wounds, sores, and ulcers. Injections of papain are given to treat herniated discs. It is especially useful for those who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, since it reduces inflammatory responses.
Papayas have been used for centuries by native Americans as a remedy for indigestion and digestive problems (it seems to be effective in reducing gastrointestinal gas). In many parts of the world, unripe papaya has been used by women as a natural contraceptive and to induce abortion. Modern research has confirmed that unripe papaya does indeed work as a natural contraceptive and can induce abortion when eaten in large quantities. It is advised that pregnant women do not consume large amounts of green papayas. The ripe fruit is safe and does not cause problems. Like green fruits, the seeds have been proven by research to possess strong spermicidal effects, and may temporarily reduce fertility or be used as a contraceptive (don’t count on its effectiveness though). Mature, ripe fruits have been used for centuries as an effective remedy against ringworm, due to its antielmintic properties. Green fruits, on the other hand, have been used to lower blood pressure, and as an aphrodisiac. Tea made from papaya leaves is consumed in some countries as protection against malaria, though this has not been proven by the scientific community. Leaves are also steamed and eaten like a vegetable, and are used as a heart tonic, analgesic and to treat stomachache. Even the roots of the plant appear to have antalgic effects, and were sometimes dried, eaten raw or in teas to reduce inflammatory pain.
Papaya contains latex (the white sap that oozes out of an unripe papaya) which can cause an allergic reaction in people with a latex allergy. The greener the fruit is, the more latex it contains.
In manufacturing, papain is used in cosmetics, toothpaste, enzymatic soft contact lens cleaners, meat tenderizers, and meat products. It is also used for stabilizing and chill-proofing beer. The bark of the papaya tree is often used to make rope.
You will get the best results if you use seeds from locally grown papaya fruit. Sow seeds directly in the garden, as they do not transplant well. Select a sunny, wind protected area with well draining soil. Papaya need soil rich in organic matter and nutrients. Plant several seeds in the area and thin out as needed, keeping the strongest seedlings. Papaya are either male, female, or bi-sexual, which means you may need several trees for pollination and fruiting. Papayas grow great in La Penita on the Riviera Nayarit, along with other great tropical fruits like Mango and Guanavana.
Trees are often 20 feet tall, with fruits ranging in weight from 1 to 20 pounds. The papaya is a soft-wooded, perennial plant (actually and herb) that lives for about five years. The plant starts to flower five to eight months from planting and the fruit is ready to harvest five to six months after that. Many people simply cut down the older trees when they become tall and plant more seeds.
When buying papayas, look for ones that are mostly or completely yellow and give slightly to pressure. Green, hard papayas are unripe and will never ripen properly. Ripe papaya is usually eaten raw. Unripe papaya can be eaten if cooked and is used in many sauces and dishes around the world. The leaves of the plant are steamed and eaten in Asia like spinach,.
Today there are two varieties of papaya, Hawaiian and Mexican. The Mexican papaya can weigh as much as 20 pounds, while the Hawaiian usually weighs about a pound. In the 1990s, papayas were the first fruit to have their genome deciphered, and were the first genetically modified fruit for human consumption be introduced into the United States food supply (they were enhanced in 1998 to be immune to the ring-spot virus, which threatened papaya crops).