Summer is my favourite season and mainly because we have so many options for delicious, fresh fruit! Today guest blogger and flexitarian cookbook author, Bindu Grandhi, gives us plenty of reason to pick up papayas on our next grocery trip!
With fresh seasonal fruit bursting onto market shelves I excitedly filled my shopping cart. But I noticed many folks bypassed the papayas. I asked the grocer why that was so and he replied that for some reason papayas are just not that popular in the US. Apparently, most of us are more comfortable with our tried and true favorites like watermelon and pineapple.
But if you give this fruit half a chance, you’ll discover its sweet, luscious and tropical taste can’t be passed up. In fact Christopher Columbus dubbed the papaya as “the Fruit of the Angels.”
There are two varieties of papayas, the Hawaiian and Mexican. The Hawaiian type known as Solo papayas are commonly found in the supermarket, they are pear shaped and weigh about a pound. The skin is yellow when ripe and the flesh is bright orange or pink. Mexican papayas are not as common, much larger weighing in at 20 pounds and can be more than 15 inches long.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of the Mexican variety because they’re not as flavorful. While this tropical fruit can be found all year long, the peak season is early summer and fall.
Health Benefits of Papayas
Papaya is a nutritional powerhouse and promises abundant health benefits. It is rich in anti-oxidants, B vitamins, folate and pantothenic acid; and the minerals, potassium and magnesium; and fiber – all for just 60 calories per cup. This combination of nutrients promotes cardiovascular health and protects against colon cancer. It is a good source of Vitamin C and Vitamin A (which is made in the body from the beta-carotene in papaya) which are both needed for the proper function of a healthy immune system.
Papaya may therefore be a healthy fruit choice for preventing such illnesses as recurrent ear infections, colds and flu. In addition, papaya is easy to digest and prevents constipation. It contains the digestive enzyme, papain, which is used like bromelain, a similar enzyme found in pineapple, to treat sports injuries, other causes of trauma, and allergies.
Buying, Storing & Eating Papayas
Look for papayas that are partly yellow on the outside. Store them at room temperature until ripe and all yellow, usually after a few days. Ripe papayas can be placed in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator and will keep for up to one week, but its best to use them within a day or two. Don’t buy papayas that are hard and green, a sign they’re immature and won’t ripen properly. They should give slightly to pressure but should not be soft at the stem-end and avoid bruised, shriveled or too soft papayas. When cut, they should smell sweet, not fermented.
To eat a papaya, wash the fruit, slice open lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and eat with a spoon. You can also use a melon baller to scoop out the fruit. If you want to cube it or use it in a dish, peel it away from the skin with a paring knife and then cut into the desired size and shape. While papaya tastes great on its own, consider combining it in a fruit salad with mango, melon or pineapple (just make sure to add the papaya just before serving as it may cause the other fruits to become soft).
For a zesty salsa, toss diced papaya with black beans, diced red bell peppers, diced red onion, jalapeno peppers, chopped cilantro and fresh lime or lemon juice. And if you’re looking for a perfect refreshing skinny summer sip, try my mom’s papaya and yogurt drink recipe (see below). It’s a surefire way to stay trim and cool down!
Fresh Papaya and Yogurt DrinkPrint This
- 1 papaya, peeled, seeded and chopped (use the Hawaiian variety)
- 2 cups low-fat plain yogurt
- 1 cup ice water
- 1-2 Tbsp honey
- Garnish with fresh mint leaves
In a blender, puree all the ingredients. Serve over ice and garnish.
Per serving: 126 calories, 6g protein, 21g carbohydrates, 2g fat
About the Author
Author of Spice Up Your Life, Bindu Grandhi is passionate about healthy and flavourful cooking, especially when it’s flexitarian. She shares her health knowledge with the world by providing practical, healthy and tasty recipes as The Flex Cook.
How do YOU like to eat your papaya? Or if you normally don’t buy papayas, will you try one out because of Bindu’s post?