Papaya trees are native to Central America but they can be and are grown in tropical and warm sub-tropical climates worldwide. The tree can grow to between 5 and 10m tall. Trees generally produce two main fruit types; one is round and small to medium sized and the other is larger and more oblong in shape. Papaya flesh is generally yellow but there are some varieties that have red or orange flesh. Perhaps best of all, papaya trees are perennial so their fruit can be enjoyed throughout the year.
When Can I Pick it?
Papayas are generally considered ripe when they feel soft (similar to a ripe avocado) and have changed from green to orange or red in color. BUT in many part of Southeast Asia the green, ‘’’young’’, mango is often a part of various dishes.
What To Watch Out For
Green papayas produce a kind of sap which can cause mild allergic reactions in some people (itching and skin irritation). This is usually only a problem when picking papayas as the stem of the fruit can be a place from where this sap will emerge.
How do I eat it?
Ripe papaya is generally eaten raw without the skin or seeds. Green papaya can be eaten raw or cooked. Young leaves and flowers can be boiled and incorporated into teas, soups and other dishes. Papaya seeds are edible and sometimes used as a substitute for black pepper.
In Khmer culture green papaya is the main component in Bok Lahong (Spicy Papaya Salad). You can check out a recipe for Bok Lahong here: https://cambodianallianceforthearts.com/how-to-make-bok-lahong-spicy-papaya-salad/
Here’s a link to the Wikipedia page on papayas: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papaya