A Bit of History: The papaya tree is native to the south of Mexico, Costa Rica and Central America. In the ancient Mayan civilization, the people honored the papaya tree as their sacred "Tree of Life." In historical literature, papayas were first mentioned in 1526 by the Spanish explorer Oviedo, who observed it growing along the Caribbean coasts of Panama and Colombia. Shortly thereafter, papayas were taken to other warm-weather countries by the Spaniards and Portuguese.
Loaded With Vitamins, Minerals and Enzymes
- Cubans call the papaya “fruta bomba,” which means "bomb fruit." The papaya is indeed a bomb loaded with enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial elements.
- Papayas are rich in antioxidants like vitamins A and C. They have substantial industrial potential due to the rich content of an enzyme called papain.
Up to about 1,200 above sea level in Hawaii, the papaya tree grows from seed to a 20-foot, fruit-bearing tree in about 18 months. The trees provide shade as well as food and require very little care and attention. Just plenty of sunshine, decent soil, mulch and an occasional load of composted chicken manure
There are about 50 varieties of papayas, many of which are inedible and not sold commercially. Papayas can range in size from 6 ounces to 20 pounds. Most common commercial varieties, such as the Hawaiian Solo, are on the small side. Papayas with reddish flesh have a taste that differs from that of the orange-fleshed types, which are sweeter.
More Than Just a Pretty Food
- Of course, the best way to use papaya is to eat it. Ripe papayas are cut in half. After the seeds are scooped out the tender yellow to orange flesh may be removed with a spoon. Green, or unripe, papayas may be cooked like winter squash.
- The skin of the ripe papaya is not edible but can be refrigerated and later used to as a face wash.
- The fibrous bark of the Papaya Tree is used to produce ropes.
Benefits of Papaya
Antioxidants, especially vitamins A and C, in the papaya prevent a number of health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, aging and cancer. Vitamin A can prevent blindness and other eye problems, and ensures a healthy skin. It is an effective remedy for dry skin, pimples and acne.
The papaya helps to maintain the levels of blood glucose, thus ensuring a steady supply of glucose and high levels of energy all day.
Many of the field workers on papaya and pineapple plantations were believed to have smoother hands from working with these fruits. Including a myth that their fingerprints “magically disappeared.” Anecdotally, this may have been attributed to the enzymes papain or bromelain which are known for their exfoliating properties, or perhaps simply (over time) the mechanical destruction of the top layer of the workers skin from handling the fruit.