O, My Papaya
By Fiona Breslin
The juicy papaya, native to the warm climates of Mexico and Central America, is a high roller among cancer fighting fruits. Christopher Columbus is said to have considered papaya the fruit of the angels, and he may not have been wrong. Its bright orange hue comes from the cancer fighting antioxidant lycopene, and per cup contains more than 100% of the daily value of antioxidant vitamin C. Papaya is also a source of potassium, vitamins A, E, and folate that support both immune and heart health. Papayas are also a source of the enzyme papain, used in natural medicine to promote digestive health and clear skin.
Papaya makes a delicious addition to the servings of fresh fruits and vegetables recommended on the healthy plate that both the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the US Department of Agriculture promote. Papaya is available year round, fresh, frozen, and canned or dried. But take care when buying dried papaya; some brands contain as much added sugar as candy.
Fresh papaya can range in size from small to very large fruits that may weigh over five pounds. Check to make sure that there are no blemishes on the skin, gently press to check for ripeness. Ripe papaya should give slightly, and have deep, rich orange flesh similar in color to that of a cantaloupe, with a light, sweet aroma.
If shopping for yourself, choose one of the smaller varieties, or buy half of a larger fruit, since many stores now sell cut papaya. Freshly cut and covered in cling film, papaya will keep for up to three days in the fridge.
Enjoy papaya on its own for breakfast, spritzed with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, or add it to a tropical fruit salad. In both Thai and Indian cooking, green papaya is the main ingredient in savory salads. Papaya seeds are edible too. They have a hot peppery taste and can be scooped out and added to dressings or marinades.