Thursday, February 7, 2008

Papaya, the health fruit

This tropical fruit combines great taste and several medicinal properties. Christopher Columbus is said to have called it ‘fruit of the angels’. Botanical name is Carica papaya. Local names include PEnPe, fruta bomba, lechoza, mamão, papaw, Papol, Guslabu, pawpaw, tree melon, and đu đủ.

The plant is single stem with spiral leaves at the top. It grows up to 10 meters height depending on the specie. The drawing below by Koeh depicts the details.

Strangely it shows a forked tree. That is rather rare at least in Kerala, India, where I come from. The ripe fruit is absolutely delicious. It is an anytime table fruit. The skin which is normally greenish to golden yellow and the seeds are removed and the flesh is cut into pieces. Another way to eat it is to cut the fruit into boats with the skin on, clear the seeds and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. This is a favorite breakfast food.

Green papaya is used for cooking in many countries particularly for salads, stews and curries. In Kerala there is papaya thoran (sautéed with grated coconut), curry with ground coconut or buttermilk, kofta curry in which grated papaya is shaped into small balls and cooked in spicy gravy. My mouth waters when I think of papaya halwa that my grandmother used to make. (See Gold color chips and a golden hearted Lady )

One could write pages about the medicinal properties of papaya. Here is a sample list: aphrodisiac, excellent source of vitamin A & C, improves digestion, useful in high blood pressure management, good for heart health, effective in treating skin disorders and fungal infections. The list goes on. For details you can visit

Papaya, especially the skin of the raw fruit has latex which contains an enzyme known as papain. It is available in the shops for use as meat tenderizer and for helping digestion. It is also said to have contraceptive properties and to induce abortion. Pregnant ladies are, it seems, advised to keep off papaya.

The photo below from Olavipe shows a male papaya tree with flowers. The male tree also has fruits but they don’t grow big enough to be served ripe on table. The larger ones among them can be used for cooking.

Papaya is certainly one of the healthiest and tastiest fruits in the world.

Click on photos for enlarged view.


Photo credits:
Top – AK Kepler, believed to be public domain
Center – Wikimedia Commons Public Domain
Bottom – Abraham Tharakan. Can be used freely for non-commercial purposes giving due credit.


Murali RamaVarma said...

Grand tribute to our local fruit! May be our papaya is a poor cousin of costly fruits and hence we have a penchant for others. But nobody can deny its medicinal values and simplicity and even taste.

In our Kerala backyards, she is overlooked, but when coming in a platter in some star hotels we find it exotic! Thanks for the article.

John said...

Hi I'm writing this on behalf of Anna at the Guardian-

Just to let you know that, sadly, due to corporate reshuffling the Guardian Abroad website has been closed down. The blogs listings are no longer live, which means that if you had a 'Review my blog on Guardian Abroad' button or any links, these are now directed to the Guardian Weekly website.
We're very sorry for any inconvenience caused and would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your creative and much appreciated contribution to Guardian Abroad. Please come and have a look at the new site, and feel free to submit any ideas you have, either about the site or to do with ideas for articles.

Thanks and best wishes,
Anna Bruce-Lockhart
Site editor

Abraham Tharakan said...

murali ramavarma, thanks for the comment.
Kerala papayas are second to none. But Mallus do not seem to be too keen on fruits except bananas and mangos.

Νίκος Κανακάς said...


It is a good post and it is very good for our knowledge.Papaya have many benefits and I agree it is best for skin.It is also have very nice taste and delicious.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Νίκος Κανακάς, thank you.

Θεμις Μαντζαβινος said...


It is a very informatic post and I like it and I think it is best for skin.