You put the lime in the coconut papaya and drink ’em both up…*
One of our big delights in summer and fall are the huge “Caribbean Red” or “Mexican” papayas. We usually buy them at Costco, but you’ll sometimes find them in the grocery stores as well.
Most people, if they’re familiar with papayas at all, are more familiar with the smaller Hawaiian papayas that are a little bigger than a pear. This variety is much larger – this one’s about 10″ long:
I’ve found that most people I’ve talked to have rarely, if ever, had papaya. And even those that have, don’t really know much about them or how to know when they’re ready to eat. They’re truly missing out on the fruit that Christopher Columbus supposedly called “the fruit of the angels”. So let’s have a quick lesson in papayas, OK?
Papayas are very high in Vitamin C, folate, and potassium, and they contain enzymes that aid digestion and reduce inflammation. They’re even supposed to help prevent colon cancer. More about them here.
Papayas are normally picked when green for shipping, but should be mostly yellow or orange when ripe, depending on variety. A ripe papaya should have a slight “give” when you press the skin, sort of like a ripe avocado. If they’re hard like a watermelon, they’re definitely not ripe. If they’re really soft, they’re probably overripe. Ripe papayas should also have a nice papaya scent at the stem end.
Papayas are usually not quite ripe when you buy them in the store. If possible, buy them when they’re at least half yellow, as it will be easier to tell if they’ve been bruised, but it’s OK to buy them green if that’s the only choice. If they’re not ripe when you buy them, just leave them out on the counter for a few days until they ripen. Depending on how green they are, they may take anywhere from a couple of days to a week to ripen. You’ll see that the one above is still speckled with green (the other side was almost all yellow), but it’s soft, indicating that it’s ripe. We probably could have left it out for another day or two, but we were impatient.
Slice them in half and you’ll see the seeds inside, which look a lot like capers. Just scrape them out and discard. (Technically they’re edible, but they’re peppery and usually bitter.) Depending on the variety, the papaya flesh may be yellow, orange, or reddish. The Caribbean Red variety, is, not surprisingly, reddish:
Slice them into wedges, or dice them, and pretty much just serve them the same way you would melons.
My favorite way to serve it is to prick the flesh with a fork, and squeeze fresh lime juice over it. I think the lime juice enhances the flavor, and I’ve heard that it helps activate the enzymes in the papaya.
So don’t fear the papaya. Next time you see them in the store, consider giving one a try. Mmmmmm.