Papaya is a delicious fruit; it is creamy and sweet for tropical fruit and is loaded with high amounts of Vitamin A, C, and antioxidants to support our immune system. However, just like any other fruits and vegetables, the benefits of papaya will be affected by its quality and that is why papaya needs your delicate attention when it comes to the selection process at your local market.
Papaya may be versatile and popular across the globe, but the fear remains: It can be an intimidating fruit to pick at your local market. So how are you supposed to pick good papaya without having to upset an entire grocery store display?
To help you with your selection of good papaya for your next trip to the local market, here are some tips and tricks for picking and choosing the right papaya for your recipe.
Table of Content
- What is Papaya?
- Where Can you Buy a Papaya?
- How to Pick a Good Papaya?
- Choosing and Using Green Papaya
- Choosing and Using Ripe Papaya
- Signs to Tell if Papaya Has Gone Bad
What is Papaya?
Papayas are native to southern Mexico through northern South America and are one of the oldest fruits in cultivation. They have naturalized in many subtropical and tropical regions.
Despite its heavyweight, papaya is a berry, filled with edible, peppery black seeds. The juicy yellow, orange flesh of good papaya is sweet with a musky intensity. Papaya may also be fist-sized or larger, depending on the cultivar.
Apart from the fruit, many cultures still use the young leaves and buds of papaya as a vegetable and the seeds as both seasoning and medicine.
Where Can You Buy a Papaya?
Most grocery stores stock papayas year-round! If you live in a city with Asian, Caribbean, or Central or South American communities, fresh produce markets in those neighborhoods can be the best place to find good papaya, thanks to high turnover and discerning customers.
How Do You Pick a Good Papaya?
It’s hard to determine the flavor of papaya unless you have literally picked the papaya ripe off a tree, but many of us can’t. The best way to tell good papaya from a bland one in a store is to pay attention to labels. Where it was grown, what its name is, and where you bought it will allow you to have a rough idea of whether the papaya is good or bad. It also allows you to keep track of the good and the tasteless papaya.
Smaller papaya tends to have better flavor; look for an elongated variety (they have a red flesh). Another good tip for finding the good papaya would be to choose papaya that has been transported to your local market quickly because that way you will be assured of the freshness of the papaya!
If you want to eat sweet and ripe papaya, choose a fruit whose skin is already beginning to change color from green to yellow or orange. Better yet, buy papaya that has reached peak color and is not bruised. Keep ripening papaya at room temperature and only transfer it to the fridge when perfectly ripe.
Choosing and Using Green Papaya
If you are looking for unripe, green papaya to use as a savory salad or vegetable ingredient, the fruit should be hard and deep green. Its flesh and seeds are mainly white. Green papayas have a crisp and raw texture that holds onto any dressing beautifully.
A Thai-style green papaya salad makes a classic use of this crunchy ingredient: Pair it with limes, chillis, fish sauce, and a few other key ingredients for a perfect result!
Choosing and Using Ripe Papaya
To use papaya for your next salad or dessert recipe, the best quality of ripe papaya is needed. And it all comes down to the degree of ripeness of the papaya at your local market. To pick the best, ripe papaya, you’d need to look out for all of these traits:
Scent + Texture + Color
One of the best ways to tell if a papaya is ripe is by its scent. Focus on the stem portion and if it has a sweet aroma near the steam, it means it’s ripe. Papaya with no smell near the stem portion is under-ripe.
Another way to know if a papaya is ripe is by feeling it! When ripe, papaya is adequately firm, but also soft that will give a little when gently pressed. However, do be careful of the texture of papaya, as sometimes the degree of ripeness of papaya is underestimated. For example, soft, mushy papaya can sometimes be mistakenly considered ripe when it is actually overripe!
The color of ripe papaya also plays a huge role in determining the degree of ripeness. You’d want to look for papayas with 50-75% yellow or orange-yellow skin with minimal bruises/blemishes. Ripe papaya is green with a prevalent golden yellow hue on its outer skin, which usually indicates that the fruit is ready to eat.
While papaya has this sweet flavor which makes it ideal for consumption as a breakfast or dessert fruit, ripe papaya makes a great addition to many uncooked dishes, such as a fresh avocado and papaya salad. They can also be sliced or diced or used to make baked goods.
Signs to Tell if Papaya Has Gone Bad
Picking papaya at your local market but don’t know if the one you picked has gone bad? Before you start bringing the papaya home, make sure it’s not overripe that it’s gone bad. Here are the top signs to know if your papaya has gone bad:
- Dark Stains and Spots: A few dark spots are okay, but if it takes over the entire Papaya Skin, you must know that it has gone bad.
- Mold: Sometimes the papaya that is placed on the shelf of the fruit stall is mold-covered. If that’s the case, immediately reject it.
- Papaya with extraordinarily soft and sunken skin: As mentioned previously, papaya with a soft, melting cover means it’s gone past its prime and you should definitely throw it away in the dustbin.
- Fermented Smell: When the papaya becomes rotten and bad, a fermented kind of smell starts coming out of it. If that’s the case, you must reject it immediately.
Papaya is a great fruit that is derived from the papaya tree, native to Mexico and northern South America. There are indeed many ways to enjoy papaya as this fruit comes in 2 main forms – unripe and ripe. The recipes vary depending on the degree of ripeness of papaya, with the unripe green papaya forming the core component used for the classic Thai dish papaya salad, and the ripe orange papaya being used for many other sweet recipes.
With that in mind, it’s always a good practice to ask yourself when you’d want to consume that papaya and then pick the best type of papaya for the type of recipe you will be using for. Couple this papaya selection guide with ways on how to store papaya to ensure you have the freshest papaya for your next consumption!