Many foodies try papaya, but not all enjoy the experience. This is because markets often carry under-ripe or over-ripe fruits that lack flavor or exude muskiness. What does papaya taste like when properly ripened? The trouble is that this “fruit of the angels” has a subtle flavor that can be difficult to find without picking it fresh.
Papaya’s unique taste is what led Spanish and Portuguese explorers to cultivate them around the world, from Latin America to India, the Philippines, and areas of Africa. To this day, it is difficult to describe how this staple fruit in Mexico and Hawaii tastes. With a distinctly dry sweetness, papayas are truly unique and exciting fruits that defy expectations.
Papayas are a soft, pear-shaped tropical fruit with green to yellow skin, depending on ripeness. Inside, orange flesh can include yellow and pink hues, and seeds are black with a peppery flavor. They peak in early summer and average 7 inches in length and around 1 to 2 pounds in weight.
But what does papaya taste like? Unlike most fruits, papayas have a soft texture and dry sweetness with a musky undertone. When over-ripe, that muskiness will take over, but, when under-ripe, there will be little to no flavor.
As Carry Haulwell notes in this video, it can be tough to find a perfectly ripe papaya. But, when you do, the reward is a delicate and complex fruit with a flavor that ranges from subtly bitter to super sweet.
The trick to a good experience of this tropical fruit is finding a properly ripened papaya. Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it might seem. The determining factor is very much color, specifically looking for plump and yellow fruits with few blemishes.
At the same time, color is merely the first step, with ripe fruits ranging from yellow to orange-red. Smell is just as important, with a distinct muskiness not unlike the smell of feet signaling over-ripe fruit. Sniff for a faintly sweet aroma near the stem end, avoiding any with no odor at all as they are likely under-ripe.
The last clue is that hard fruits are generally under-ripe. More flavorful papayas, meanwhile, will be soft like a ripe avocado but with no mushy spots. Signs of trouble include mold on the base of the fruit or soft flesh near the stem end. Avoid such papayas as they are very much over-ripe and will not taste good.
Once you have a properly ripened papaya, how do you keep it that way? To prevent further ripening, you can store those ‘just-right’ fruits in the refrigerator for up to a week. Remember that they will generally be tastiest when eaten within the first few days.
For slightly under-ripe fruits, you can hasten ripening by leaving them at room temperature. To avoid the development of mushy spots, be sure to leave your papayas on a flat surface and in a paper bag in a cool and dark area.
Leave space between the fruits, and consider adding an apple or avocado to speed ripening. For more tips on preparation and storage, see how to choose, cut, and eat papaya with Brian on Health.
Because of their mild and complex flavor, papayas are extremely versatile. They can be pureed as a base for sweet and savory soups, sauces, and desserts. Due to the presence of the enzyme papain, these fruits are also ideal for marinating meats as they help break down such proteins.
Most famously, under-ripe papaya is a key ingredient in Vietnamese and Thai cuisine, especially green papaya salad. It is often pickled, added to soups, or prepared as a salad with chili and lime. The key is to highlight the fruit’s mild flavor as part of sweet, crisp dishes where it is prepared like daikon or carrots.
At the same time, not only is papaya a uniquely tasty fruit, but adding it to your diet has incredible health benefits. In particular, they are a good source of folic acid, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, beta carotene, potassium, and antioxidants. In the process, these tropical fruits support digestive health, lower inflammation, protect eye health, and provide immune support.
Getting a perfect papaya can be a challenge, but the hard work of choosing and properly preparing it is worth the effort. Its complex fruit flavor is truly unique and can be a striking and healthy addition to many dishes.
Try adding some to your diet today – whether as a dried papaya snack-on-the-go or a papaya puree marinade for a protein-based dish. However you slice it, papaya is an exciting addition to your everyday diet!
Tell us how you enjoy this tropical fruit in the comments. In addition, be sure to share this article if you found in helpful in understanding this unique fruit.
Hello, I’m Laura Bennett. I love nature especially when it comes to flowers and different kinds of plants. I started a very small garden behind my house and I named it Humid Garden. So, I created this blog to provide aspiring and inspiring thoughts about gardening for gardeners and anyone who has the intention of keeping a garden.
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