When he first tasted it, Christopher Columbus is said to have pronounced it the “fruit of the angels.” Papaya, pawpaw, fruta bomba, tree melon, mamão, lechosa – these are all names for this tropical treasure that can be eaten ripe, cooked, or, as is common in Southeast Asia, used in a fresh salad. When ripe, the flesh is juicy and varies in colour from yellow to orange to pink. The skin of the unripe fruit contains a milky sap called papain, a protein-digesting enzyme used in remedies for indigestion and constipation, which also makes a highly effective meat tenderizer. Additionally, papain can be applied topically as an ointment to treat cuts, burns, rashes and stings.
Carica papaya – to give it its Latin name – is believed to have originated in Mesoamerica, spreading from southern Mexico across to the Andes. Cultivation carried across countries and continents, and soon it was a popular crop grown in the West Indies, the Bahamas and Bermuda. Spaniards brought seeds to the Philippines, and from there it traveled to Malacca and India, and on to Australia. As it spread across the world, its popularity rapidly grew - papaya now claims its spot as the third most cultivated tropical crop. The papaya tree grows quickly, usually fruiting within 3 years, and just one tree can produce as much as 75 pounds of fresh fruit each year.
A small papaya contains more than 100% the recommended daily dose of vitamin C. It is also a good source of vitamin A, folate and fiber. Papaya also contains minerals such as potassium and trace amounts of calcium and magnesium.
And if that’s not enough, papayas are also a notable source of carotenoid antioxidants. These free radical scavengers reduce oxidative stress and therefore may help reduce the risk of disease. In particular, the carotenoid lycopene has been studied for its potential to help prevent and treat certain types of cancer. It may also improve heart health and support healthy skin.
Papaya’s soothing properties can also support your skin from the outside; papaya skins have been used topically to treat skin conditions such as ulcers, eczema and psoriasis, and as an ingredient in skincare products.
Even superheroes have their limits: in times gone by, papaya was used as a contraceptive, but that is definitely not one of its verified functions. Don’t - please don’t - try this at home!
Our super-powered papayas are grown by a collective of organic farmers in the state of Karnataka in India. The fertile volcanic soil of the Deccan Plateau produces some of the most flavorful papayas in the world. What’s more, the crop provides a far more sustainable crop option for the farmers than the water-guzzling sugarcane they used to grow.
The unripe green fruit of papaya can be cooked in curries and stews, as well as in salads. It is often eaten ripe as a breakfast fruit and can also be juiced. The black seeds are sharp and spicy – roasted and then ground, they are sometimes used as a substitute for black pepper. You can also mash papaya flesh and apply it directly as a face mask or a hair treatment.
You’ll find sweet, soothing papaya paired with ripe plums and pineapple in our new Limited Edition golden plums smoothie, where its natural fragrance is enhanced by a twist of Thai lime leaf and coriander seed. You can get your fill of this fresh, light and tropical smoothie here.