Since we finally got a real, out-of-the-dictionary summer, I’m obsessed with natural beta-carotenes. And do you really know all the benefits of papaya, this delicious beauty?
I don’t endulge in exotic fruit on a daily, or even on a monthly basis (CO2 imprint, you know), but over the years July has become my exotic month – where I allow myself to stroll my fave markets and stores for eco & fair-traded exotic fruits.
See, with strawberries now slowly leaving, and cherries supply being rather weak here, too, I wait for late summer’s harvest treasures supporting my local… *coughs* fruit importers.
But strangely, I know many people who shy from trying papayas for not having any idea of what to do with them! Some think that the smell is horrible – and the recipes they know are all too complicated.
Let’s bust those myths now!
There are two types of papayas: red and yellow. Picked green, both are used in Asian cuisine for chutneys and salads as “green papayas”. Here in Europe you get smaller and bigger varieties; big papayas are often sold cut in half which I really don’t recommend buying – for same unspeakable reasons as you shouln’t buy ready-made salads from the veg aisle: yikes inside.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?
They are really good for you!
Papayas are packed with natural vitamin C, lycopene, carotenoids/ beta-carotene, folate (good for healthy bones!), magnesium, papain (an enzyme – good for detox & good digestion = hello, flat belly!) and a lot more healthy stuff like fibre, polyphenols, pectin and more. This “cocktail” is especially great in summer to protect us from all that harmful UV overexposure – it’s anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and some nutritionists even claim that the enzymes can reduce allergies (view word of warning #2 though).
Research suggests (and my case proves!) that papaya can reduce sinusitis inflammations.
ANY WORDS OF WARNING?
1. Unripe papayas can release a latex substance when cut, which might cause allergies.
2. Papayas have a very distinct scent. Really disctinct. Unlike its orange-coloured friends’, mangos and melons, it’s not fruit-like at all. And while some poorly shipped specimen may have no smell at all, ripe and sweet papayas always smell like… hm. I don’t know. A bit like you don’t want to eat it, perhaps? You get used to it, really, and maybe even like it (like I do).
NOW, WHAT TO DO WITH THE THING?
I prefer papayas almost pure, as a one-fruit-show or as a basic fruit salad – freshly cut, sprinkled with lemon juice, ginger powder and a hint of chili flakes; add a sweetener you prefer if you have to (just not maple syrup, do yourself that favour).
Whenever I can get hold of a big, ripe papaya, I buy it, wash it thoroughly, cut it in two halves, get out all the seeds (and set them aside). One half gets a tight cling wrap dress and goes for a chillout into the fridge for the next day (not longer), and the other half is freed from its green and yellow skin and consumed on the spot.
Ripe papayas, unlike green ones, aren’t particularly good for cooking, so I prepare either a salad (sweet as above; or for a main dish with baby spinach, chilies, cashews, cherry tomatoes and a dressing made of lime juice, xylit, chili, and wheat-free soy sauce), or as a smoothie.
Since papayas contain pectin, they’re amazing for smoothies, chutneys, jams and mousses – I handle them as you handle any especially sweet and soft fruit. Remember that papaya loves exotic spices like ginger and chili and some lime juice, too.
And remember the seeds I said I set aside? Papaya seeds have a rich, fiery taste similar to green pepper. I’m too impatient to wait for them to dry (and I fear that they might mould if I don’t pay attention), so I crush them fresh, using a mortar, and blend them with some papaya flesh and other ingredients to obtain a hearty, cold-made chutney that’s amazing in a stew. (And yes, you could marinate meat for a BBQ.) I consume that within 24 hours as well.
Some people use papaya pulp/juice and even seeds (whoa, that’s so hardcore…) for a DIY, home-made face scrub or body scrub. I must admit I haven’t tried this yet because I have much better options (my konjac sponge or my own home-made sugar-coconut or sugar-coffee scrubs) and the fruit is way too delicious and too good simply eaten 😀