Papayas 201

A note for all of those who haven’t ever had papayas, especially if you’re tempted to try one after my last post:

After Nora commented that she thought papayas tasted like vomit, I discovered that apparently she’s not alone – evidently a lot of people seem to think so.

I suspect that the reason is the papain – the digestive enzyme in the papaya. Some people must have a sensitivity to it, either in their taste buds or scent receptors. Since the enzyme is a digestive (it’s often used as a meat tenderizer), it does actually make sense.

We aren’t all the same, and certain foods will smell, taste, or react differently for different people.

I know I was surprised to find out that asparagus doesn’t make EVERYONE’s pee stink. It certainly does mine. Evidently it’s only people who have a particular gene for an enzyme that breaks down the sulfur compound mercaptan. And I seem to remember hearing that some people have taste buds that cause green beans (string beans) to taste bad, due to a particular enzyme in them.

I remember that I had either a papaya or mango many years ago, and thought it was absolutely horrible. (If it was a papaya, it would have been a Hawaiian one, not a Mexican one.) I wouldn’t try either fruit for years because of that memory. I suspect it was probably mango, because although I’ll eat fresh or dried mango occasionally now, I still find that they have a slightly unpleasant undercurrent to the taste, that I can’t really describe, and I can’t eat much of it.

I also wonder if the Hawaiian papayas are more likely to cause this reaction in people. If I ever had a Hawaiian variety, it was years ago – but supposedly the Hawaiian ones have a much stronger taste than the Mexican ones. Personally, I find that the Mexican ones that I’ve been eating taste mostly like melon, but with a slightly more tropical flavor.

At any rate, I thought I’d post a word of warning. If you’ve never tried one before but would like to, you might try smelling a ripe one first. If you can’t stand the smell, you might want to skip it. (Though some people think they smell bad but taste delicious… go figure!)

Thanks to Nora for bringing this up – I had no idea. I can just see you all running out to buy papayas, thinking they taste like vomit, and then wondering how I could possibly like them.

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9 Responses to Papayas 201

  1. Kris says:

    Interesting – I thought I was alone in this one. I used to have angora bunnies and fed them papaya (which they loved) to aid in digestion and prevent hairballs. I have a very poor sense of smell but papayas are one of the few things I can smell and quite distinctly. I think they smell horrible, so I’ve never dared taste one. I always thought it had something to do with my lousy sniffer – not the papayas themselves.

  2. Cookie says:

    Oh my goodness…

  3. Nora says:

    I can tell Cookie is going to rush out and buy a papaya immediately.

    My experience involved a gathering of our longstanding gourmet club. The six adults in attendance indeed had varying reactions, but most of us thought it smelled terrible and had a really hard time even tasting the fruit.

    Your explanation of the enzyme sounds plausible. I also find mango to be a little funky – but I can eat TJ’s dried mango with chili, since the chili masks the taste!

  4. Lauren says:

    I’m in the tastes like vomit camp too. But I love mangoes.

  5. Norma says:

    There is really so much to this food and genetics thing. I think it’s going to be the next big thing. Or one of them anyway. ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. Chris says:

    See also, for example, celiac disease. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Carrie K says:

    Different varieties must hold different enzyme amts as you surmise, I usually like papayas but I’ve had the vomit taste too.

    Really, they’re good. Great w/chicken.

  8. Laurie says:

    Interesting. Works with cilantro too. Some are more sensitive to the ‘soapy’ aspects.

    I love mangos, papayas, pee stinky. Would love to see the taste genes some day.

  9. Tiffany says:

    Papaya juice tastes foul to me. I had wondered if it was just me and when I did a search on the Internet I found your article. I tried an organic papaya juice made mainly from papaya and the taste was so foul I couldn’t even grasp that it had not gone bad, I had however just opened it. The juice is even mixed with organic apples and organic pineapples and still the taste is the equivalent of food gone completely and beyond rotten aka rancid. Yikes!

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