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What you need to know about papaya

Papaya is a classic tropical fruit native to Mexico. It is grown on all continents, or at least in areas characterised by high temperatures. Intensive cultivation is reported in Africa and Asia, while in Italy, it is cultivated in Sicily and in some locations in southern Calabria. Papaya is not demanding and, in fact, adapts to all types of soil. Furthermore, it yields a lot because the tree bears fruit all year. The tree, which can grow to a height of five metres, is notable for its medium size and abundant leaves.

In terms of nutrition and taste, papayas are very valuable fruits. It is medium-juicy, has a firm pulp, and is high in mineral salts and vitamins. The reference is to vitamin C and potassium. It also contains a lot of fibre, which makes up 2% of the entire fruit. Papaya contains papain, a substance that rebalances the body in terms of acidity and basicity. Finally, lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, is very abundant.

The numerous varieties

Papaya has over 50 varieties grown around the world. Here are the most appreciated and consumed ones:

  • Solo. It is small in size, with yellow skin and orange pulp.
  • Hortus gold. It’s quite sweet.
  • Cera. The dimensions are medium, and the pulp is generally sweet and floury.
  • Kagdum. The dimensions are quite big, and the pulp is extremely sweet and soft. This variety is characterised by a bright orange colour.
  • Semanga. The flavour is slightly acidic but still pleasant. The pulp is orange-yellow and firm.

How is it used?

Papaya is a versatile fruit. Obviously, it is eaten raw, like a table fruit; in fact, it is the best way to eat it. Nonetheless, it can be the protagonist of many recipes. Starting with juices and smoothies, perhaps combined with some red fruits (the combination is excellent). The same holds true with sorbets and drinks.

Papaya can also enrich salads and bowl. In this case, it goes well with all tropical fruits, perhaps slightly sweet, although there is no shortage of pleasant compositions with strawberries, bananas, and even vegetables. Some more daring, but still successful, preparations involve combining papaya with meat, similar to what happens with the famous “ham and melon.” From this vantage point, some exquisite red meat tartares are enjoyed; in fact, the powerful flavour of the meat and the sweetness of the papaya pair wonderfully.

The papaya fruit in the kitchen: a few dessert ideas

Papaya is a precious fruit; it is healthy. As we have seen, it lends itself to the most delicious and even savoury recipes. However, it is also worth giving space to the more classic recipes, i.e., the sweet ones.

Papaya cheesecake. It is a different cheesecake than usual because of the gastronomic features of the papaya, which make it an essential component of the filling rather than helping with the creation of the covering. Furthermore, its sweetness pairs well with sugar, cream, and cream cheese.

Papaya and ginger cream. This delicacy has a distinct flavour because it’s both sweet and spicy. Ginger’s more pungent flavour pairs well with papaya’s delicate, exotic flavour. The blackberries, then, guarantee a slightly acidic and pleasant note.

Papaya tarts with mango gelee. It is a dessert with an exotic character that can be considered an elegant mini-pastry. The gelee guarantees extraordinary softness as well as a shine that matches perfectly with the bright colours of the fruit.

Exotic Macedonia. It’s the regular fruit salad, except that the fruits used in the recipe are of tropical origin. Papaya is the main ingredient, but we can also find mango, banana, and melon in it. It is a colourful and very sweet fruit salad that is capable of replacing two portions of fresh fruit.

Fruit mosaic. It can be considered a “plate” fruit salad. The highlight, however, is the puree and watermelon juice that serve as the bed. The flavour of the papaya is the one that stands out the most.

What are the benefits of papaya?

The properties of fresh papaya, as we have seen, are very interesting.  This fruit has a physiological effect on the body that is on par with, if not better than, that of Mediterranean fruits. Here are some advantages to papayas:

  • Supports the immune system. The reason for this lies in the presence of some specific vitamins and mineral salts. That is, vitamin C (which helps absorb iron), zinc, and selenium.
  • Promotes digestion. Like many other fruits, papaya contains many fibres that have a beneficial impact on digestive activities. To help in this sense, there is also an incredible abundance of water, so papaya is an excellent remedy against constipation.
  • It helps keep cholesterol under control. The reference is obviously to bad cholesterol, often responsible for acute heart diseases. The credit in this case once again goes to the abundance of fibre.
  • Acts as an antioxidant. In this instance, the existence of certain compounds, such as beta-carotene, matters. Indeed, this chemical not only facilitates the absorption of vitamin A, which is essential for healthy skin, but it also enhances cell regeneration processes and aids in the prevention of cancer.
  • It helps fight fatigue. Papaya is rich in mineral salts; therefore, it can be considered a quick tonic. A detail that is not insignificant if you consider the caloric intake, which is quite balanced.

Some contraindications to consuming papaya

As we have seen, papaya is a healthy fruit; however, it is good to ask whether it has any contraindications, perhaps in reference to specific pathologies or the taking of certain drugs.

So, can consuming papaya trigger side effects? In general, there is no problem if consumption is moderate. On the other hand, you may experience stomach discomfort in cases of excessive consumption due to the great abundance of fibre. Actually, this is a side effect that affects most vegetables.

Papaya has no pharmaceutical contraindications, so no medicine comes into conflict with the consumption of this fruit. Pregnant women should beware of underripe papayas. Under these circumstances, the fruit may contain papain, which is harmful to the developing embryo.