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Seasonal Produce: Papayas

What pear-shaped fruit resembles a melon on the inside but is botanically a berry? Juicy, sweet papaya! Called "fruit of the angels" by Christopher Columbus, this tropical gem has thin, green-gold skin and yellow to pinkish flesh that is similar to melon in texture and flavor. In the center of the flesh is a large cavity filled with small, black edible seeds that have a peppery taste.

Almost all papayas sold in the U.S. are grown in Hawaii and Florida. Early summer is their peak season, so take a few home to enjoy in salads, smoothies and desserts.

Purchasing

  • Papayas are harvested before they fully ripen to prevent bruising during shipping. Unripe papayas are green and gradually turn yellow as they ripen.
  • Select papayas that are starting to turn yellow and yield to gentle pressure. Avoid any that are hard and completely green, shriveled or have dark spots.
  • Most papayas need to finish ripening at home. Let stand in a dark place at room temperature for 2 to 3 days or until they turn from green to yellow.
  • To speed up the ripening process, place the fruit in a loosely closed paper bag.
  • Once ripe, eat immediately or refrigerate in a plastic bag for 2 to 3 days. Papaya tastes best when eaten within a few days of turning ripe.

Preparing

  • Fresh papayas contain the enzyme papain, which readily breaks down protein. As a result, any gelatin dish that contains even a small amount of fresh papaya will not set. Heat destroys this enzyme so canned or cooked papaya works fine with gelatin.
  • The simplest way to enjoy papaya is to cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and eat the flesh with a spoon, similar to eating melon. Drizzle a little fresh lemon or lime juice over the top for extra flavor.
  • If desired, rinse off the peppery-tasting seeds and sprinkle them over salads.
  • To easily prepare papaya chunks or slices, peel the skin with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Cut the papaya in half lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds and cut up as desired.

Nutrition

  • One cup of cubed papaya is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and a good source of folate, potassium and fiber. It is also naturally fat and sodium free.

Serving

  • Toss papaya slices into green salads for a burst of color and tropical flavor.
  • Stuff the hollowed-out centers of papaya halves with a creamy chicken or tuna salad for a quick and easy summer entrée.
  • Add papaya chunks to summer smoothies and shakes.
  • Stir sweet, juicy papaya chunks into BREYERS Yogurt or Cottage Cheese.
  • Top pancakes, waffles or French toast with papaya slices for a special touch at the breakfast table.
  • Garnish glasses of sparkling water, iced tea and fruit punch with papaya chunks for a tropical touch.
  • Grill papaya chunks on kabobs along with shrimp or scallops and serve over cooked rice for a sizzling summer entrée.
  • Purée papaya chunks in a food processor or blender, then drizzle over angel food cake slices or scoops of vanilla ice cream for an easy, luscious dessert.
Papayas
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