Guess what? That’s right, New Food Friday is back! Now that CSA deliveries are done for the season and we’re past the Thanksgiving holiday, I’m bringing back this series of new, unusual, different and weird foods. First up? Papaya!
I know I’ve had papaya before in canned fruit mixes, but I never had it fresh until recently. When the price at my local Kroger dropped to $2.99 for a papaya the size of a spaghetti squash, I figured it was time to bring one home.
New Food Friday: Papaya
What it is: A tropical fruit that can be eaten either green (as in Thai green papaya salad) or when the flesh turns orange and ripe. It comes in several varieties including the smaller golden papaya and the large Mexican papaya, which is what we’re dealing with in this blog post.
What it tastes like: To me, ripe papaya tastes a bit like a persimmon with a brown sugary sweetness, but an added undertone of citrus that keeps it bright and refreshing. The texture is similar to cantaloupe, but less juicy. Cut papaya also gives off a slightly off-putting scent, almost as if it is going bad. But unless you see visible rot or mold on the flesh, your papaya is probably fine. Some people suggest giving it a squirt of lime juice before eating to override the scent.
Where to find it: Papayas are usually sold green, so look for a large oblong green fruit in the produce section of your grocery store. I typically find them with other tropical fruits like mangoes. Pick a fruit that’s unbruised and feels heavy for its size.
How to store it: Store a green papaya on your countertop to ripen until the skin turns mostly yellow and it has some give like a ripe peach. It may start to develop some soft spots, but that’s ok. You can cut them off once the fruit is ripe. I didn’t ripen the one in my photos quite long enough–the wide end of the fruit was soft and sweet, while the other end was still a little crunchy. Once ripe, store in the refrigerator.
How to prepare it: Preparing papaya is a lot like cutting up a melon. Rinse the outer skin, then cut off the stem end and a bit off the bottom. Slice the fruit in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. (The seeds are actually edible–I wasn’t a big fan, but give it a try if you’re feeling adventurous. Apparently, they can be dried and used as an alternative to black peppercorns!) Then, cut each half of the papaya in half. Stand each quarter on its wide end and slice down with a knife to remove the skin. Cut the flesh into wedges or cubes as desired.
What I did with it:
- I made one batch of overnight oats with papaya and vanilla extract, which made for a refreshing breakfast with a tropical feel.
- Aside from that one experiment, I pretty much snacked on it straight out of the container. If you must know, I demolished 7+ cups of papaya cubes by myself within a week. I don’t even think Paul got a taste.
The verdict: Papaya is sweet, refreshing like melons and mango, but so much easier to deal with! One fruit gives you so much food for not much work, and at my Kroger, a price tag of just $2.99 in season. If my admitted fruit binge doesn’t say this already, I’ll definitely keep buying papayas.