The Fruit with Benefits

By Swarnendu Biswas

Papaya is the fruit of the plant of the same name. The plant is also known as Carica papaya. The papaya plant comes in three sexes. According to Wikipedia, the male papaya plant produces only pollen but not fruit. The female papaya plant produces small, inedible fruits unless pollinated.  The female papaya plant needs to be pollinated for coming up with edible fruits.

“The hermaphrodite papaya plant can self-pollinate since its flowers contain both male stamens and female ovaries,” informs Wikipedia. Most of the papaya plants in commercial papaya orchards are hermaphrodite versions. Hermaphrodite papaya plants are most suited for commercial use.

The papaya fruit’s shape generally varies from spherical to cylindrical. Its length is generally between 75 to 500 mm. One can find two types of papaya fruit; one has red or orange flesh, and the other has yellow flesh. The papaya fruit is also plucked when it is still unripe and green, which then is used in various culinary applications. The flesh of ripe papaya fruit is juicy.

Cultivation Factors

Though the papaya plant bears fruit within three years of its cultivation, but the papaya plant is frost-sensitive. It cannot produce fruit if exposed to extremely cold temperatures.

Temperatures below -2 degree centigrade or even near zero degree centigrade can bring great harm to papaya cultivation. Papaya cultivation can also be greatly impeded by water logged conditions. Papaya plant is the native of Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. But now papaya is cultivated in many of the tropical countries across the planet and also in warm parts of subtropics. Papaya fruit requires sandy, well-draining soil and warm and humid climate.

India Leads

After bananas, oranges and mangoes, papaya is the most commonly produced fruit in the world. India is the largest producer of papaya fruit in the world.

According to FAOSTAT of United Nations, in 2016 India had 5.70 million tonnes of papaya production as compared to the global production of 13.05 million tonnes during the same year. Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia are the other important papaya producers in the world. Papaya cultivation in India is mostly done in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Karnataka, Gujarat and West Bengal.

Culinary Applications

Papaya has a wide range of culinary applications. It is eaten raw, without skin and seeds, and in India the role of raw papaya can enhance the taste of fruit chaat in roadside stalls. Papaya does play its role in salads too.

The unripe green papaya is used in curries and stews. In Bengal, light curry or jhol of goat meat with papaya is a tasty dish. Latex derived from the papaya fruit does act as a meat tenderiser. In Bengal, green unripe papaya is abundantly used as a vegetable. Papaya shake and papaya juice can be delightful beverages on a hot summer day. The Thai dish, raw papaya salad, is popular across South-east Asia.

In bakery and confectionery also, papaya can be used creatively. Papaya jelly, papaya bread or papaya cake, if made well, can enhance the value of your bakery as these are not commonly found in our bakery outlets. Papaya cake can be a delightful accompaniment with evening teas, whereas papaya bread can be a healthy addition to your breakfast. In Brazil, the unripe papayas are often used to develop sweets or preserves.

Moreover, the ground black seeds of papaya are sometimes used as a substitute for black pepper.

The Healthy Fruit

Papaya is spruced with several health benefits. Firstly, it is a rich source of Vitamin A, B, C, and K and its intake is known to give you a boost to your immunity.

Papaya facilitates digestion and is endowed with anti-ulcer properties. It also helps you to get cured from the irksome constipation. Papaya has an enzyme named papain, which is known to facilitate digestion by breaking down proteins. So a bowl of cut papaya or a glass of papaya juice can give you a healthy start in the morning. Moreover, papaya can help eliminate intestinal worms.

Papaya can be helpful in preventing cancer and heart attacks, two dangerous maladies of our times. The fact that papaya is rich in anti-oxidants and phytonutrients that work against free radicals, can help it prevent the occurrence of some types of cancer. Moreover, papaya leaf extract from dried papaya leaves showed anti-carcinogenic effects on tumor cells grown in the laboratory. Intake of papaya leaf juice is used to facilitate increase the platelet count for people affected by dengue.

Vitamin E and Vitamin C from papayas help prevent cholesterol to stick to the walls of blood vessels, which helps you in retaining a healthy heart. Papayas can also help in weight loss.

The role of papayas to tackle one of the most menacing lifestyle diseases of our times also cannot be ruled out. A renowned website recently said that “According to a study done by the Centre of Excellence for Biomedical and Biomaterials Research at the Mauritius University, green tea and fermented papaya work together as preventive means for diabetes.”

Papaya is also rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Regular consumption of papaya can keep the arthritis at bay in the long-run. Moreover, papayas in the diet can help in reducing the risk of developing macular degeneration. According to a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, a consumption of three or more servings of papaya on a daily basis may lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). The consumption of green, unripe papayas can help normalise the menstrual cycle among women facing irregular menstruation.

However, all these health benefits can be accrued from papaya only from its regular and systematic intake in your diet.

Thus we can see that in this growing health conscious age, our food service and food retail industry cannot afford to overlook the crucial role of papayas in their offerings. More creative and delicious applications of papaya in the restaurants’ menu are the need of the hour in India’s food service industry.

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