PAPAYA, THE STOMACH'S BEST FRIEND
The papaya (from Caribbean indian language via Spanish) is native to the jungles of the Mexico-Guatemala border, and was first cultivated in Mexico several centuries before the emergence of the Mesoamerican classic cultures. Maya indians used to cook meat wrapped in papaya leaves over charcoal, the leaves have a tenderizing effect on the meat due to the enzyme papain, which has the ability to break protein molecules. Throughout Latin America Papaya is sold in 3 stages of ripeness, green (verde), semi-ripe (pintona) and ripe (madura), each has different applications, green is used for its firmness and high content of papain, semi-ripe for its firmness and color, and ripe for its sweetness. Green papaya usually has a dark green skin, semi-ripe papaya's skin will go from pale green to pale yellow often in streaks and ripe papaya's skin will be all yellow.
A simple kitchen experiment to observe the papain enzyme at work is to liquefy the skin of a green or semi-ripe papaya in a little water and strain the liquid; place in this liquid a piece of the toughest cut of meat that you can find and a piece of cheese, after an hour the cheese will be practically dissolved and the meat will have the texture of liver. After a meal full of proteins, like a BBQ, there is nothing better for your digestion that eating a thick slice of semi-ripe papaya, your stomach will feel light within an hour. Throughout Latin America papaya is usually eaten fresh in thick slices or cubes sometimes sprayed with lime juice. Shakes (batidos) of papaya are also popular.
Medical research in animals has confirmed the contraceptive and abortion causing capability of green papaya consumed regularly in large amounts. Enslaved women in the West Indies were noted for consuming papaya to prevent pregnancies, thus preventing their children from being born into slavery. Papaya was the first fruit tree to have its genome deciphered.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Carica papaya
ENGLISH NAME: Papaya
LOCAL NAMES: Papaya (spanish), Lechosa (Venezuela), Mamão (Brazil)
PRODUCTS: Papain powder as a tenderizer; canned papaya in syrup; papaya candy brittle, called Piñonate in Margarita island, Venezuela
NUTRIENTS: Papaya is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Dietary Fiber and Potassium, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Folate. Papaya contains large quantities of lycopene, which has been shown to have an antiproliferative effect on in vitro liver cancer cells. For further nutrition information follow this link: Papaya nutrients
PROCESSING: For green or semi-ripe papayas you start by cutting away the skin, if the papaya is large you first cut it in half and set it on flat surface for cutting the skin away, then cut it in 4 wedges and scrape out the seeds with a spoon; you now cut in cubes or slices according to your needs; for ripe papayas the best method is to cut in half length wise, scrape the seeds out with a spoon and with a baller spoon cut balls out; an alternative is to cut 4 wedges with the skin on and the cut out the flesh with a curved knife by going around the edges. Ripe papayas are very delicate and should not be manipulated a lot because they will become mushy. The following is a link with a video on how to cut papayas, it is the best I have seen: Processing Papayas
STORING: Papayas will keep well in cool dry place but will go from green to ripe in 10 days no matter what you do. Papayas do not freeze well because they become mushy after thawing.