Carica papaya: Papaya, Papaw

Family: Caricaceae
Common name: Papaya, Papaw

No yard in Kerala is complete without a papaya plant or two reaching as tall as the house and crowned by a bunch of green papayas. They usually sprout in the yard from bird droppings, and produce fruit without too much fuss. Raw papayas are used for curries and pickles. Ripe papayas are eaten raw after removing the seeds, or used for juices, jams, milk shakes or jellies.

There are male, female and hermaphrodite papaya plants. The male ones never bear fruit. Female plants bear edible fruits only if the flowers are pollinated. Hermaphrodite plants can self-pollinate and produce fruits. There are different cultivars or variants produced through selective breeding. We usually see yellow vs deep orange papayas, plants that fruit when they are really short vs. those that have fruits when they are very tall.

The chemical called papain from raw papaya is used to tenderize meat. Ripe papaya is a good source of Vitamin C. A juice from papaya leaves is said to increase blood platelet count, making it a popular medicine for dengue, but it’s not clinically proven.

Papaya plants usually grow from bird and animal dropping. The seeds from any papaya can be dried and then planted in a nutrient rich soil. And normally the plants bear fruits in 8-10 months.

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