Latin Name: Carica papaya
What is a Papaya?
Papaya, a fruit associated with warm climates, is indigenous to Mexico, Central America, and the northwest of South America. Since the 1600s, it has been grown in tropical climates all over the world.
Most of the papayas from Central America were specially cultivated to resist the ringspot virus; the species grown in the United States were victim of crop failure until they were genetically modified to resist the virus in the 1990s. Today, Hawaii, a major exporter of papaya in the world, has a crop that is more than 80% genetically modified.
In addition to papaya being a delicious fruit with seeds spicy enough to substitute for the black pepper grounds they resemble, both the bark and the stem are utilized to produce rope.
What are the health benefits of Papaya?
Papaya is believed by traditional Chinese medicine to lubricate the lungs, treat a cough, kill intestinal worms, increase milk production in lactating women, heal skin lesions, soothe indigestion and stomachaches, and alleviate the irritability brought on by warm weather.
The antioxidants in papaya’s abundant content of vitamin A, C, and E help prevent cholesterol from oxidizing and clogging arteries, a risk factor for stroke and heart attack. These vitamins have also been shown to protect against macular degeneration, and A and C vitamins in particular are helpful in maintaining the healthy functioning of the immune system. In addition, vitamin A was found to maintain healthy lungs, and thus stave off emphysema and lung cancer.
Papayas are probably most famous for their protein-digesting enzymes, like chymopapain and papain, which are even sold as extracts to help tenderize meat. In the human body, these enzymes calm inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis and asthma, promote strong digestion, and keep the intestines clean. Papaya is also rich in the free-radical-fighting phytonutrient lycopene, which has been proven to prevent prostate cancer. In addition, eating papaya is excellent for the skin; its skin can be used topically to help wounds heal more quickly. The folate found in papaya helps prevent anemia.
Where can I find Papaya?
Papaya can be found in some supermarkets and occasionally in Asian outdoor markets.
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