Common Name: Papaya, Paw Paw.
Latin Name: Papaya carica.
Origin: Tropics of the Americas, now widespread in the tropics.
Description (what it looks like): A large, tree-like plant, with a single stem growing from 5-10m tall, with leaves confined to the top of the trunk. Known to branch out if the top is cut and covered with a bucket. Stems are hollow and spiral out from the trunk. They grow in three sexes: male, female, and hermaphrodite. The male produces only pollen, never fruit. The female will produce small, inedible fruits unless pollinated. The hermaphrodite can self-pollinate since its flowers contain both male stamens and female ovaries.
Uses (function): Great middle story layer in a permaculture system. Fast growing and bountiful amounts of fruit under in ideal growing conditions. Fruit is edible, both in its unripe (green) and ripe (yellow/red) states. Leaves can be dried and made into a tea for medicinal purposes. The stem and bark may be used in rope production. The hollow stems of the plant can be used as natural eco-friendly straws.
Nutritional value: Contains papain, Vitamin C, carotenoids, Vitamin A, fibre and folate. Papaya leaves made into tea can be used as treatment for malaria. Digestive and immune systems benefit from the consumption of papaya, as does your skin hydration and elasticity.
Growing details (propagation, seed etc): It grows from seed and does not often transplant well. Fruits in 6-10 months. Harvest when it feels soft (as soft as a ripe avocado or a bit softer) and its skin has an amber to orange hue to prevent birds from eating it first.
Best time to grow: All year round in tropical regions.
Soil: It prefers a moderate to rich loam, well drained soil. Likes alkaline soil and grows well near cemented areas.
Sun: Full sun, sheltered from wind.
Water: Moisture loving, so be wary of root rot.
How to eat it: The ripe fruit is usually eaten raw, without skin or seeds. Green fruit can be eaten cooked, usually in curries, salads, and stew as a starch substitute. Valued in Thai salads and curry recipes. Green fruits and young leaves are boiled for use as part of ‘Lalab’ salad, while the flower buds are sautéed and stir-fried with chillies and green tomatoes in Indonesia. Contains a high amount of pectin, so it can be used to make jelly. The black seeds are edible and have a sharp, spicy taste used liked black pepper when dried.
- The Incredible Edibles - A Tropical Superfoods Guide by Tonielle Christensen.
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