Papaya: Oval shaped fruit is nutritious and sweet

April 24, 2001

Papaya: Oval shaped fruit is nutritious and sweet


The Top 10 fruits as listed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest:

  • Guava
  • Watermelon
  • Grapefruit, pink or red
  • Kiwi
  • Papaya
  • Cantaloupe
  • Dried apricots
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries

Look past the peppercorn-like seeds and give papaya a try.

C'mon, it's good for you. Plus, it's tasty.


"It tastes good. It's like a meaty taste. It's got a little sweetness to it," said Gregory McClung, assistant produce manager at Martin's Food Market on Pennsylvania Avenue in Hagerstown.

The oval-shaped fruit bears qualities of other produce favorites. It can be as small as a pear or as large as an eggplant, and often has the texture of a cantaloupe.


According to California Rare Fruit Growers Inc., the two main types of papaya are Hawaiian and Mexican. Hawaiian varieties, which have yellow skin when ripe, are commonly found in supermarkets. They weigh in at about 1 pound, and have bright orange or pinkish flesh with small, black seeds clustered in the center.

Mexican papayas are heftier - they can weigh up to 10 pounds and be more than 15 inches long. The flesh may be yellow, orange or pink.

Ben Poirier grows a mountain variety of papaya as part of his collection of unusual fruiting plants in Fallbrook, Calif. Among his collection is a Babaco papaya, a seedless hybrid. The Babaco is sweet and can be eaten by itself as a fruit, Poirier said.

Other mountain papayas have a strong aroma and are not very sweet. He said such varieties can be cooked like jam or jelly with sugar and water and served over ice cream.

The tropical edible offers more than pleasure for the palate. A good source of potassium, folate, fiber, and vitamins A and C, it is listed among the Top 10 healthiest fruits by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Papayas have more potassium than bananas, said Cheryl Frushour, a registered dietitian at Washington County Hospital. An important element, potassium "keeps your body in a balanced state as far as fluids," she said, builds muscle protein and promotes proper use of carbohydrates.

Vitamin A improves vision, stimulates bone and soft tissue growth and helps create healthy tissue like skin to cover the body, Frushour said. It also is an antioxidant, acting as a chemical magnet to disarm damaging forms of oxygen in the body.

Vitamin C, also an antioxidant, helps people recover from physical stresses such as injuries or illnesses, Frushour said. In addition, it is beneficial to children's growth and aids in wound healing.

The fiber content in papayas helps keep the body regulated, Frushour said.

Papaya in the diet

Depending on its ripeness, papaya can be eaten like a fruit or vegetable.

The flesh of ripe papayas can be scooped from the skin like a melon, Poirier said.

When green and hard, use papaya as a vegetable, Frushour said.

McClung said some Martin's customers use papayas for fruit or vegetable salads and as garnishes.

"It's kind of an oddity," McClung said, adding that papaya is in higher demand locally in the summer. Depending on the season, the price can range from 99 cents to $2.99 per fruit, he said.

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