Impressively large, exotic and beautiful, and when ripe a rich orange color. This luscious fruit was called the “fruit of the angels” by Christopher Columbus. We can consider ourselves lucky that the tropical fruit is available all year round. While I love local fruits, let’s be realistic, pretty soon the local apples and pears will come to an end and we’ll have to go south of the border to get the flavor and vitamins to keep us going strong through the cold season.
Where genetically modification can do good
Papayas are either red or orange or they can be picked green. Generally, they’re grown in Mexico and Brazil. Due to the response to a disease called ringspot virus that broke out in Hawaii, genetically altered papaya were generated and brought to market. The DNA alteration of the fruit was so successful that by the end of 2010 the majority of Hawaiian papaya plants were genetically modified.
Papaya has an enzyme called papain, which is used for a tenderizing effect on meats. It’s particularly effective in tough meat such as flank steaks.
Cooking with papaya
Papaya offers luscious taste and the color of the fruit expresses tropical sunlight -- perhaps a squeeze of lime and the fruit is ready to be enjoyed.
Unripe papaya can be cooked and then consumed which is very popular in Thai cooking in curries and salads and in Indonesian cuisine where they take full advantage of the fruit and leaves. The natural pectin content of the ripe fruit makes it an ideal fit for making jellies too.
Cabbage & Parley Salad with Fresh Papaya
(recipe yields four salads)
1 small head red cabbage, about 4 cups sliced
1 pound jicama1 bunch parsley, about 1 cup chopped
sea salt, to taste
black pepper from a mill
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 two-inch long piece ginger, grated
½ cup coconut flakes, toasted
- With a mandolin, cut cabbage into thin slices, discard hard cabbage core.
- Slice jicama on the mandolin 1/8” inch thick then with a knife into matchstick sized stripes.
- Peel papaya and cut in half, then remove the seeds with a kitchen spoon and discard. Cut papaya into 1/4-inch cubes.
- Chop parsley from leaf-to-stem into 1/8-inch wide slices.
- In a large bowl, combine vinegar, salt and black pepper and mix with a wire-whisk for one minute, then add oil slowly, while stirring continuously.
- In a large bowl toss-together cabbage, jicama, papaya, parsley and then add vinegar/oil mixture. Toss mixture and adjust seasoning with sea salt and black pepper.
Chef’s Tip: If you like the flavor or peanuts add toasted, crushed peanuts and omit the coconut flakes.
Chefs Note: Papaya seeds are edible and tend to have a sharp, slightly spicy taste – you can use them instead of black pepper though they add a slight bitterness.