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The papaya is a
melon-like tropical fruit with yellow-orange flesh
enclosed in a thin skin that varies in color from green to
orange to rose.
The papaya contains an
enzyme called papain that is a meat tenderizer. It breaks
down tough meat fibers. It is sold as a component in
powdered meat tenderizer available in most supermarkets.
Some people react badly to this when eating papaya.
Look for papayas that are
partly or completely yellow in color, depending on
variety, that give slightly to pressure, but are not soft
at the stem-end. Avoid papayas that are bruised,
shriveled, or have soft areas. Papayas that are hard and
green are immature and will not ripen properly. Uncut
papayas have no smell. Papayas that are cut should smell
sweet, not bad or fermented.
Slightly green papayas
will ripen quickly at room temperature, especially if
placed in a paper bag. As the papaya ripens, it will turn
from green to yellow. Place ripe papayas in a plastic bag
and store in the refrigerator. Papayas will keep for up to
a week, but it's best to use them within a day or two.
There are two types of
papayas, the Hawaiian and Mexican. The Hawaiian varieties,
also known as Solo papayas, are found most often in
supermarkets. These fruits are pear-shaped, weigh about a
pound each, and have yellow skin when ripe. The flesh is
bright orange or pinkish, depending on the variety. The
Mexican varieties are not as common but can be found in
Latino supermarkets. Mexican papayas are much larger then
the Hawaiian types and can weigh up to 20 pounds and be
more than 15 inches long. Although the flavor is less
intense than the Hawaiian varieties, they are still
delicious and enjoyable.