You may have heard about papaya, but only a few decades ago did they start importing these tropical fruits to non-tropical areas.
So, today you will find that many people aren’t very familiar with the fruit or at least too scared to try it! While papaya is truly unique and beautiful, it may seem too foreign for some to try. So, we are here to convince you!
What does papaya taste like? Papaya has a mildly sweet flavor and is very fruity. It has a similar taste and texture to melons, especially cantaloupe. Some even describe it as having a mango-like flavor without the slight tartness. Papaya also has a creamy, soft, and very juicy texture.
We will be discussing exactly what it is, how to prepare and use it, choosing the ripest papaya possible, and the many health benefits this fruit carries. Read on to find out more about this incredibly versatile fruit!
What Is A Papaya?
This incredible fruit goes by a few names: papaya, papaw, or pawpaw. It is a tropical fruit that grows in tropical regions like India, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, and the Dominican Republic to name a few.
However, it can grow virtually anywhere where the soil is sandy and the temperatures tropical.
While there are a few different species of papaya available, they all look relatively the same.
Papaya is generally large tropical fruit that can range anywhere between 5.9 and 17.7 inches in length (15-45cm). And, the diameter can range between 3.9 and 11.8 inches (10-30cm).
That incredibly big! Some are even as big as a watermelon!
The exact shape of the fruit varies greatly. But, the closest thing we can describe it to (or at least what the average papaya looks like) is pear-shaped.
It has a very wide bottom and becomes narrower at the top. But again, the shape varies greatly.
Papaya is harvested and sold at two stages: the unripe and ripe stage. Each has different characteristics.
Unripe papaya has bright green skin that is smooth and very thin in thickness. The flesh itself is also very pale in color and extremely hard.
Once the papaya ripens, the skin changes color from green to beautiful shades of yellow and orange.
The flesh can be shades of salmon-pink to bright orange. And, like bananas, the older it gets, the deeper the color gets. It also eventually develops brown or black spots.
Ripe papayas have thicker skins that need to be cut or peeled off. Their flesh is very soft (gets softer as it ages) and is extremely juicy.
And of course, we won’t forget to mention the beautiful seeds on the inside. Once papaya has fully ripened and is cut open, you are met with a mesmerizing arrangement of tiny black seeds in the middle.
These can be simply scooped out before chopping up the juicy flesh.
Edible Parts Of Papaya
You can eat the entire fruit, papaya leaves and flowers, roots, and stems. We think it comes down to how you prepare and cook these parts that make them truly edible.
No one wants to eat papaya leaves as-is. However, when prepared properly, it actually has a few uses. It can be used to create fruity extracts or essences that can be used in baked goods or puddings.
Then, if you dry the leaves, they can also be used to make herbal tea. Or, you can simply use it fresh in juices and smoothies.
And, papaya seeds can (and maybe even should) be eaten. They are packed with nutrients like antioxidants, monosaturated fats, and even fiber.
The seeds can be dried and used as a substitute for black peppercorns. They have a surprisingly similar flavor!
While the skin of papaya is edible, we wouldn’t recommend eating it. It contains certain components that generally cause an upset stomach and severe cramps.
Finally, the flesh of papaya is obviously edible and has a wide range of uses!
What Does Papaya Taste Like?
The exact taste of papaya has been long debated. While many describe it as having a unique sweet tropical flavor, others are persistent in it tasting like vomit. Sorry, there’s no beating around the bush with this one!
But, before we dive deeper into that, please do not think that all papayas have that flavor! It isn’t nearly as common as the internet goes on and is only present under certain circumstances.
Personally, we’ve experienced both sweet and vomit-like papayas. This vomit-like smell and taste are present in papayas that haven’t fully ripened yet. This is due to an enzyme found in papaya called papain.
Papain is very close to certain enzymes we have in our bodies, which is why some people immediately think of vomit.
That being said, while there is definitely a possibility of those flavors coming through, it depends entirely on the ripeness of the papaya, how you eat it, and even where it is from.
Low-quality commercially grown papayas are more likely to have those flavors.
Now, your average papaya has a deliciously sweet and fruity flavor. You’ll immediately think tropical.
Many people describe the flavor as being close to mangoes and melons. But, papaya isn’t nearly as sweet as these fruits and actually has a quite pleasant balance of flavors.
The texture of ripe papaya should be firm, yet soft and juicy. It’s almost buttery and creamy! It is simply delicious and can be used in a ton of ways!
There is an endless amount of use for this delicious fruit. You think of it, and it can be done! You can make salads, ice creams, puddings, smoothies, juices, salsa, teas, stews, and loads more!
But, if you are looking for more delicious and creative ways to use papaya, we have listed some of our favorite uses below.
You can use unripe papaya to make atchara. This is a traditional Filipino dish made by pickling unripe grated papaya.
It is often flavored with additional vegetables, spices, and dried fruits. It goes especially well along with pork roasts and stews.
You can make a savory papaya filling and use it inside dumpling-like dishes. Some traditional recipes that use this technique are lumpia, empanadas, and okoy.
If you are looking for something more refreshing, make a spicy Thai salad. There are many recipes, but most incorporate unripe papayas and papaya leaves.
And finally, you can make a wide variety of preserves using papaya. This could be a coulis, jam, jelly, or preserved cubes or slices. You can also play around with the flavor a lot!
Choosing The Best Papaya Fruit
To get the best flavor, you have to choose a papaya fruit when it is at its ripest. There are a couple of signs you can look out for that will indicate the ripeness of papaya fruit.
First, and the most obvious, is the color of the papaya skin. Unripe papayas are green and have smooth skin. The skin is also very delicate and thin.
As the papaya ripens, it changes into a yellow, then orange. Generally, the brighter the color, the riper the papaya is.
When papayas are nearing the end of their peak, they start developing black and brown spots on the skin. If more than about 40% of the surface is black or brown, the papaya is past its prime.
Ripe papaya also has a much thicker skin and it will change texture too. It will essentially lose a bit of moisture and become slightly textured (not smooth like unripe papaya).
Next, you can feel the papaya. Unripe papaya is very hard and when you softly press the flesh, it won’t move at all.
Ripe papayas on the other hand have softer skin. Ripe papaya should be slightly soft when you press on the skin and flesh. It shouldn’t make a dent and still be firm.
Over-ripe papaya will be completely soft and will almost squish when you press it. These are only good for smoothies (if they are still safe to eat of course).
Flesh And Seed
Because of the immense size of papayas, some stores sell papaya halves. You will also sometimes see pre-cut or peeled papayas.
You can tell whether or not those products are fully ripe by looking at the color of their skin. Ripe papaya has a bright flesh color that is usually some shade of orange. It shouldn’t be pale or green – then it isn’t ripe.
And, when the papaya doesn’t have any seeds, it won’t be as delicious. No seeds usually mean that the papaya was prematurely harvested. These will have a less intense flavor and likely, that vomit-like smell.
Okay, so again, not all papayas smell like vomit. It isn’t a common occurrence! But, if you do smell it, your papaya isn’t ripe yet.
Another way to determine whether the papaya is ripe using smell is as follows. If you smell the fruit and it has no odor, it isn’t ripe. If it smells sweet and fruity, it is perfect. But, if it has a strong and pungent papaya smell, it is overripe.
How To Prepare Papaya
Preparing papaya is very simple. Unfortunately, though, it isn’t a fruit that can be eaten as-is, like apples or grapes. Like most tropical fruits, papayas have to first be prepared before the flesh can be used.
After choosing a ripe papaya, the best way to start is to slice the fruit in half. Then, scoop out the seeds using a teaspoon or tablespoon.
Next, you can either cut the fruit into slices and serve them with the skin on or remove the skin.
To remove the skin, slice it away from the flesh using a sharp paring knife. Do not try to peel papaya. The skin is too thick and the flesh is too soft—trust us, it’s just a mess!
Once the papaya is completely peeled and deseeded, you can cut and use it however you’d like.
How To Prepare Papaya Seeds
If you plan on using the papaya seeds, prepping them for drying is also very easy. Simply rinse then under cold running water to remove any sliminess and extra flesh.
The seeds are also often connected by strands. Make sure they are completely separated and cleaned.
Then, you can either leave the seeds outside in a warm area or dry them in the oven. Over drying is naturally much quicker. Once they are dried, you can grind them or store them whole in a cool dark place.
How To Properly Store Fresh Papaya
This depends entirely on the form your papaya is in. If you buy unripe papaya, you will first need to ripen it at home, otherwise, it won’t be as flavorful and juicy.
So, to ripen papaya at home, you can leave it on the counter for a couple of days or weeks.
To speed up the process, wrap the papaya in newspaper or brown paper and leave it on top of the fridge. The humidity and higher temperatures will help speed along the process. Just keep an eye on it to prevent it from becoming too ripe.
Once ripe, you can store the whole papaya in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. You don’t have to wrap the whole papaya or store it in a container.
Once you slice your papaya, the shelf life decreases instantly and drastically. Sliced papaya, no matter how big, will only last about 3-4 days.
You have to store sliced papaya inside an airtight container of some kind. This will help prevent the fruit from absorbing odors in the fridge, drying out, and overall expiring too quickly.
Now that we’ve gone over what papaya tastes like and how to prepare it, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!
Why does papaya smell so bad?
Papaya sometimes smells bad when it hasn’t yet fully ripened. This is due to the papain enzyme it contains which has a naturally pungent odor.
You can easily hide this smell if you use it alongside other ingredients, like when making a smoothie or pudding.
Can pregnant women eat papaya?
You may have heard that pregnant women shouldn’t eat papaya. This is only true to a certain extent. The fact is rather that pregnant women shouldn’t eat unripe papaya or papaya seeds.
Papaya seeds contain elements that are harmful to the fetus. And unripe papaya contains high amounts of latex. This latex substance causes the uterus to contract and cause a lot of pain.
Will frozen papaya still taste good?
You can freeze fresh papaya and use it later. However, only freeze ripe papaya. Unripe papaya will carry over its bland flavor and won’t ripen later. Once you have defrosted ripe papaya, it will still have a deliciously sweet and fruity flavor.
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