Purchasing Organic Papaya

Papaya (Carica papaya) is the most important member of the Caricaceae family for human consumption. It belongs to the Brassicales order, which makes it distantly related to cauliflowercabbagekalecollardskholrabiBrussels sproutsbroccolibroccolinibok choyrapininapa cabbageturnipsmustardwatercressarugularadisheshorseradish, rutabaga, capers, and nasturnium.

Papayas likely originated along the Caribbean coast of Central America. They were probably widely cultivated by Indians in Mexico and Central America prior to 1492.

Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés (August 1478 – 1557), a Spanish historian, first described papaya in 1526 in his work, La historia general y natural de las Indias. Papaya quickly became favored by Spanish and Portuguese explorers. The numerous seeds, when dried, remain viable for several years and this facilitated their movement. Seeds were taken to Panama and then the Dominican Republic before 1525 and cultivation spread to warm elevations throughout South and Central America, southern Mexico, the West Indies and Bahamas. Spanish sailors brought seeds to the Philippines about 1550 and the papaya traveled from there to Malacca and India.

Papaya arrived in Bermuda in 1616. In 1626 seeds were sent from India to Naples. Eventually, papaya was introduced to nearly all tropical regions and some subtropical regions by Spanish and Portuguese sailors.

Papayas have been cultivated in Hawaii, the major US producer since the 1920s. Up until about 1949, papayas were commonly grown in Puerto Rico. Thereafter, papaya ringspot virus seriously reduced the plantings. Seeds were probably brought from the Bahamas to Florida, where papayas were commonly grown in central and southern Florida in home gardens and on a small commercial scale. In the 1950s, an Italian entrepreneur, Albert Santo, imported papayas into Miami by air from Santa Marta, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Cuba for sale locally as well as shipping fresh to New York, and he also processed quantities into juice or preserves in his own Miami factory. In 1959, papaya ringspot virus caused a decline in Florida papaya production similar to the one in Puerto Rico 10 years earlier. The virus hit Hawaii in the 1990s; however, biotechnologists at the University of Hawaii  inserted a gene into the ‘Sunrise’ cultivar that conferred resistance to the virus. This made the papaya the first genetically modified fruit crop used for human consumption. Since 1998, most of the papaya acreage in Hawaii has been changed to genetically modified cultivars.

Genetically modified organisms were outlawed on the Big Island of Hawaii in 2013, but papayas were excluded from the ban.

Papayas are consumed year round in the tropics and subtropics,  from the Caribbean region to Malacca and to India.

Papaya can:

  1. Protect you against heart disease. Papayas may be very helpful for preventing atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. When cholesterol becomes oxidized, is can stick to and build up in blood vessel walls, forming dangerous plaques that can eventually cause heart attacks or strokes. Papayas are an excellent source of the powerful antioxidants, vitamin C and vitamin A, which help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood that may promote atherosclerosis (fatty deposits in blood vessels) by damaging the inner lining of arteries and promoting blood clots. Too much of it is related to a higher risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease (fatty deposits in peripheral arteries). The folate in papayas converts homocysteine into benign amino acids such as cysteine or methionine. Papayas are also a good source of fiber, which reduces high cholesterol levels by binding with the bile acids that your body uses to make cholesterol. Fiber isn’t absorbed, so when it exits the body in the feces, it takes the cholesterol-containing bile acids with it. As a result, your body ends up with less cholesterol, which your liver then pulls from your blood to make more bile, lowering your cholesterol levels. Eating a high-fiber diet not only reduces your total cholesterol, it also reduces your triglyceride levels, and your  Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL–the most dangerous form of cholesterol) levels.
  2. Prevent cancer. The fiber in papaya binds to cancer-causing toxins in your colon and keeps them away from the healthy colon cells. In addition, the folate, vitamin C, and beta-carotene in papayas each reduce your risk of colon cancer by protecting your colon cells from free radical damage to their DNA. Beta-crpytoxanthin in papaya protects your cells from the damaging effects of free radicals and reduces your risk of lung cancer. Lycopene-rich fruits, such as papaya, especially in combination with green tea, may greatly reduce a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer.
  3. Decrease inflammation. Papaya contains several unique protein-digesting enzymes including papain and chymopapain. These enzymes help decrease inflammation and improve healing from burns. In addition, the antioxidants in papaya, including vitamin C and beta-carotene, are also very good at reducing inflammation, and may help reduce the severity of asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases. Beta-crpytoxanthin in papaya protects your cells from the damaging effects of free radicals and reduces your risk of rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory polyarthritis.
  4. Support your immune system. You need both vitamin C and vitamin A for the proper function of a healthy immune system. Papaya may therefore help prevent such illnesses as recurrent ear infections, colds, and flu.
  5. Protect against macular degeneration. The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin in papaya defend your cells from the damaging effects of free radicals, and protect your eyes from developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults. Eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration , by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.
  6. Protect against rheumatoid arthritis. The vitamin C in papaya protects you against inflammatory polyarthritis, a form of rheumatoid arthritis involving two or more joints. People who consume the lowest amounts of vitamin C-rich foods are more than three times more likely to develop arthritis than those who consume the highest amounts.

Nutrients in 1 Medium Papaya (276 grams)

Nutrient

Amount

Daily Value

vitamin C

168.08 mg

280%

vitamin A

2622.00 IU

52%

folate

102.12 µg

26%

fiber

4.69 g

19%

potassium

502.32 mg

14%

magnesium

57.96 mg

14%

carbohydrates

29.86 g

10%

vitamin K

7.18 µg

9%

Calories

118.68

7%

calcium

55.20 mg

6%

copper

0.12 mg

6%

manganese

0.11 mg

6%

tryptophan

0.02 g

6%

niacin

0.99 mg

5%

pantothenic acid

0.53 mg

5%

omega-3 fatty acids

0.13 g

5%

vitamin B6

0.10 mg

5%

choline

16.84 mg

4%

vitamin E

0.83 mg

4%

iron

0.69 mg

4%

riboflavin

0.07 mg

4%

thiamine

0.06 mg

4%

phosphorus

27.60 mg

3%

protein

1.30 g

3%

chloride

30.36 mg

2%

selenium

1.66 µg

2%

sodium

22.08 mg

1%

fat

0.72 g

1%

zinc

0.22 mg

1%

cholesterol

0.00 mg

0%

lycopene

5045.28 µg

cryptoxanthin

1625.64 µg

beta-carotene

756.24 µg

lutein and zeaxanthin

245.64 µg

alpha-carotene

5.52 µg

Papayas are more available during the summer and fall; however, you can usually purchase them throughout the year in most markets, thanks to imported crops.

Purchase only certified organic papayas, especially if they come from China or Hawaii, where most of the papaya is genetically modified. If you want to eat them within a day of purchase, choose papayas that have reddish-orange skin and are slightly soft to the touch. Those that have patches of yellow color will take a few more days to ripen. Avoid papayas that are totally green or overly hard, unless you are planning on cooking them, or unless you want to use green papayas in a savory cold dish like an Asian salad, as the flesh will not be sweet and juicy. While a few black spots on the surface will not affect the papaya’s taste, avoid those that are bruised or overly soft.

Leave partially yellow papayas at room temperature where they will ripen in a few days. If you want to speed this process, place them in a paper bag with a banana. Store ripe papayas in the refrigerator and eat them within one or two days, so you can enjoy their maximum flavor. For the most antioxidants, eat papaya fully ripened.

You can use papayas in many ways.  They can be eaten as is, added to a fruit salad. One of the easiest ways to eat papaya is to eat it just like a melon. After washing the papaya, cut it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and then eat it with a spoon. For a little extra zest, you can squeeze lemon or lime juice on top.

To cut papaya into smaller pieces for fruit salad or recipes, first peel it with a paring knife and then cut it into the desired size and shape. You can also use a melon baller to scoop out the fruit of a halved papaya. If you are adding it to a fruit salad, you should do so just before serving, as it tends to cause the other fruits to become very soft.

While most people discard the big black seeds, they are actually edible and have a peppery flavor. They can be chewed whole or blended into a creamy salad dressing, giving it a peppery flavor.

Here are some serving ideas:

  • Mix diced papaya, cilantro, jalapeño peppers, and ginger together to make a unique salsa.
  • Sprinkle papaya with fresh lime juice and enjoy as is.
  • Use papaya in a watercress salad to balance watercress’s peppery taste.
  • Slice a small papaya lengthwise and fill with fruit salad.
  • Blend papaya, strawberries, and soy yogurt into a smoothie.

This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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