How well do you know your papaya fruit? How long do papayas last? Besides scooping out the flesh, how else can you use them?
Well, if you are mind-boggled with any of these questions, look no further. Read on to learn more about these tropical wonders.
The origin of many fruits, vegetables and herbs is shrouded in mystery. Papaya is one of them. Its exact place of origin is a puzzle.
However, cultivars were initially used in Southern Mexico and Central America. Cultivation spread to Hawaii and other tropical regions of the world.
It is worth noting that papaya is a tropical fruit hence thrives naturally in any tropical as well as warm subtropical climate.
Belonging to the Caricaceae family, papaya is also commonly known as pawpaw. It has a green-yellow rubbery skin, juicy flesh which turns orange-red when ripe and a gazillion black seeds inside.
Unripe papayas contain papain. This sticky milky sap is an enzyme known for breaking down proteins. It is highly valuable for treating digestive problems. Moreover, papain is also used in the production of meat tenderizers.
Depending on the climatic zone and soil, some papaya varieties are sweeter than others. Additionally, there are different cultivars and hybrids which produce papaya fruits of different size, flesh color, shape and taste.
Ripe papaya fruit is commonly added to fresh fruit salads, smoothies, eaten on its own or pureed and used as baby food.
Papaya juice is another popular drink in the tropics. Similarly, several communities use raw papaya in various savory dishes, garnish, salads as well as condiments like salsa.
Apart from that, the leaves are also boiled and infused into dishes. Moreover, some folks make use of the entire fruit by drying the edible black seeds and using them on smoothies or salads.
Besides being consumed, papaya is also used in personal skin care regimens. As a matter of fact, both the peel and flesh are rubbed topically onto the skin. They are touted for their deep cleansing properties whereby they exfoliate, cleanse and help remove skin pigmentation as well as blemishes. Furthermore, the flesh also helps in soothing sunburns.
Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Papayas
Papayas offer a fair slice of nutritional value in the diet pie. These tropical fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals and healthy components that benefit your body immensely. Check them out:
Papayas are rich sources of retinoic acid (vitamin A). For every 100g of papaya, there is roughly 48 grams of vitamin A. Papayas contain such high amounts due to their distinctive color obtained from beta-carotene.
When consumed, the body synthesize the beta-carotene into vitamin A. This nutrient maintains healthy cells, vision, reproductive system, tissue growth, organ function as well as boosts the body’s immunity.
Besides vitamin A, papayas contain choke-full of vitamin C. Each 100g serving has a whopping 80 grams of ascorbic acid. The importance of vitamin C in the body cannot be overemphasized. It facilitates iron absorption.
Majority of the body’s functions are attributed to this nutrient – collagen production, tissue formation, wound healing, maintenance of bones, hair, cartilage as well as protein metabolism. Moreover, vitamin C boosts the immune system thus keeping illnesses and infections at bay.
Papayas contain high water content – about 88%. This is majorly found in the flesh. High water content foods are crucial for keeping our bodies well hydrated. Additionally, they alleviate constipation hence promote a healthy digestive tract.
As mentioned earlier, papayas have beta-carotenes which give them their color. Apart from this, papayas are rich in lycopene. These antioxidants are lauded for their cancer-fighting and inflammation-suppressing properties. They shield body cells from damage.
In addition to the above, papayas contain traceable amounts of B vitamins like thiamin, niacin and riboflavin. Additionally, they contain dietary fibre and carbohydrates. They also have minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorous and sodium. All these elements play crucial and supportive roles in our bodies.
Shelf Life of Papaya
Ripe papaya is highly perishable and sensitive in terms of handling and storage. As such, it is imperative to always ask yourself, “How long do papayas last?”
Avoid freezing whole, ripe papayas by any means. As a matter of fact, freezing temperatures destroy the fruits by causing chilling burns. As such, if you must refrigerate, utilize the crisper and ensure the temperature doesn’t fall below 50°.
Alternatively, peel, deseed and cube the fruit before freezing. Place the cubes on a sheet and freeze. Once frozen, transfer the cubes onto Ziploc bags and freeze.
At room temperature or in the pantry, whole papaya fruits keep well for up to 8 days. Overly ripe ones start to deteriorate by day 2. Wrap and refrigerate any sliced papaya.
Avoid too much handling to prevent denting the fruits, especially ripe ones which tend to be squishy.
In case you have pureed papaya, freeze any leftovers. Portion the puree into small batches that can be used per serving. Place in heavy duty Ziploc bags or freezer-friendly containers. Well frozen papaya puree keeps well for up to 1 year.
The shelf life of papaya juice depends on how it is made. Homemade juice has a short shelf life. Consume within 3 days. Commercially bought papaya juice has a printed use by date which guides you.
How to Preserve Papaya for a Longer Shelf Life
If you have excess papayas lying around, don’t let them rot away. Canning is an excellent method of preserving and extending their shelf life.
When canning papayas, do the following:
- Only use ripe, firm papayas.
- Peel and deseed the fruits.
- Cut or slice uniformly to guarantee even penetration of syrup.
- Prepare the canning syrup as per a specific recipe. Never eyeball the measurements.
- Sterilize the canning jars to prevent contamination.
- Store canned papayas in a cool, dry area of your pantry. Once opened, refrigerate and consume the contents as soon as possible.
Dehydrating food items guarantees prolonged usage. You can easily dry papayas at home using any of these methods – natural sunlight, dehydrator machine or oven.
- Peel and deseed the fruits.
- Slice the papaya evenly.
- Spread the slices in a single layer to allow thorough drying. Once dried, store in airtight containers. Unopened papaya chips keep well for 2-4 months.
Being highly perishable, papayas give off obvious spoilage clues. Be on the lookout for any of the following:
- Pungent odor.
- Mushy, watery flesh
- Blackened skin and flesh
- Visible mold growth
Discard such papayas immediately or use in compost manure.
Pawpaw or papaya – whichever way you prefer calling them, these tropical fruits are a worthy pantry item. Asking yourself how long papayas last goes a long way in handling, using and storing these delicate and highly perishable fruits.