Papaya



The papaya (Carica papaya) is widely distributed in most tropical countries and islands, where it thrives in the warm climate.1 Papaya plants are extremely common in Singapore and are often cultivated in private gardens. In 1993, special stamps featuring the papaya, amongst other local fruits, were issued as part of the Singapore Philatelic Bureau’s Nature Series – Local Fruits.2

Origins and distribution
Although its exact origins in tropical America remain unknown, the papaya is thought to have come from Central America or Mexico. The papaya first appeared in the Dominican Republic and Panama in the early 16th century.3 The plant only reached the Southeast Asian region in 1550, when Spaniards brought the seeds to the Philippines. The Portuguese and the Spaniards then promoted the plant in the neighbouring Malay Peninsula and the East Indies.4


Description
The papaya tree, as it is erroneously called, is actually a large, herbaceous plant because it lacks woody tissues.5 A member of the small Caricacaea family,6 it has a slender, knobbly stem that can growup to 30 ft tall.7 The trunk is hollow and remains unbranched unless the tip is damaged. The trunk is topped by a spiral of large, long-stemmed leaves. The leaves are simple but severely lobed and often span 2 ft in diameter. They have prominent veins and are medium to light green above, fading to a drab, greyish green below.8 In both the stem and leaves, a thick, milky white latex is found. This latex can cause severe irritations, so care must be taken when handling the plant.9 The plant matures rapidly, often producing fruits by the second year.10

Flowers are fleshy, cream coloured and have a sweet fragrance.11 Due to the numerous varieties, fruits vary greatly in size and shape, ranging from large pendulous fruits to small ovoid ones. The thin skin of the fruit is green and on ripening, can be anything from light yellow to reddish orange.12 The central portion of the fruit forms a five-angled hollow in which small black seeds can be found in abundance. The seeds are covered by a layer of transparent gel and are attached to the hollow by soft, thread-like tissue. The sweet flesh again varies in colour from cream to salmon pink. It has a soft, melon-like consistency and an agreeable flavour.13 Commercially cultivated hybrids such as the Hawaiian or Solo tend to be smaller than their original counterparts but taste much better.14

Usage and potential
Food
The raw fruit is a rich source of nutrition as it is high in vitamins A, B, C and rich in calcium.15 It is typically eaten chilled as a dessert fruit, or with a dash of lime juice.16 However, it is not uncommon to find chunks of crystallised papaya (halwa betek in Malay) or sun-dried strips in local shops and markets.17 Papaya jam can be made by mashing partially ripened papayas with sugar and a bit of ginger. Papaya cubes or balls are also found in canned tropical fruit salads. Other foods include papaya juice, puree, yoghurt and baby food. Unripe papayas are commonly used as a vegetable throughout the region. The Filipino atchara is a relish consisting of green papaya, onions, peppers and other vegetables.18 The immature fruit is also boiled and eaten or preserved as pickles.19 New leaves are sometimes cooked and served in the East Indies, while the stem is eaten as a vegetable in some parts of Africa. Oil extracted from papaya seeds is of very high quality and is excellent as a salad dressing.20

Medicine
Recent studies show that the papaya may hold the cure to the AIDS virus. Researchers  believe that eating papaya could help boost the immune system and reduce the viral load of HIV in some patients.21 Papaya juice is sometimes employed in pharmaceuticals as it can be used to remove blemishes. Latex obtained from unripe fruits is used in folk medicine to treat warts and corns. It is also believed to aid in digestion. The seeds of the papaya are used in folk medicine as a vermifuge or to induce an abortion.22

Others
The papaya stem and immature fruit contain protein digesting enzymes known as papain and chymopapain. The green fruits are tapped for their latex and the proteolytic enzymes extracted for commercial use. Perhaps its most important usage is as a meat tenderiser. It is common for locals to either rub meat with a piece of green papaya, or to include it with the meat while cooking. Sometimes, meat is wrapped in papaya leaves and left overnight for the same purpose. Abattoir holders also inject commercial papain into cattle prior to slaughter in order to tenderise the meat. Apart from this, papain is also utilised in various industries. These include leather tanners, breweries and chewing gum manufacturers. In poor countries, papaya leaves are used as a substitute for soap.23

Variant names
Malay: betik24
Other names: pawpaw, tree melon, melon zapote25



Author

Annalisa Dass



References

1. Morton, J. (1987). Papaya. Fruits of warm climates. Retrieved 2016, April 26 from Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue University website: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/papaya_ars.html
2. Local fruits on stamps. (1993, September 7). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Morton, J. (1987). Papaya. Fruits of warm climates. Retrieved 2016, April 26 from Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue University website: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/papaya_ars.html
4. Piper, J. M. (1989). Fruits of South-east Asia: Facts and folklore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 634.60959 PIP)
5. Morton, J. (1987). Papaya. Fruits of warm climates. Retrieved 2016, April 26 from Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue University website: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/papaya_ars.html
6. Hutton, W. (2000). Tropical fruits of Malaysia and Singapore. Periplus Editions, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING 634.6 HUT)
7. Morton, J. (1987). Papaya. Fruits of warm climates. Retrieved 2016, April 26 from Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue University website: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/papaya_ars.html
8. Piper, J. M. (1989). Fruits of South-east Asia: Facts and folklore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 634.60959 PIP)
9. Morton, J. (1987). Papaya. Fruits of warm climates. Retrieved 2016, April 26 from Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue University website: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/papaya_ars.html
10. Piper, J. M. (1989). Fruits of South-east Asia: Facts and folklore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 634.60959 PIP)
11. Morton, J. (1987). Papaya. Fruits of warm climates. Retrieved 2016, April 26 from Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue University website: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/papaya_ars.html
12. Piper, J. M. (1989). Fruits of South-east Asia: Facts and folklore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 634.60959 PIP)
13. Morton, J. (1987). Papaya. Fruits of warm climates. Retrieved 2016, April 26 from Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue University website: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/papaya_ars.html; Piper, J. M. (1989). Fruits of South-east Asia: Facts and folklore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 634.60959 PIP)
14. Hutton, W. (2000). Tropical fruits of Malaysia and Singapore. Periplus Editions, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING 634.6 HUT)
15. Morton, J. (1987). Papaya. Fruits of warm climates. Retrieved 2016, April 26 from Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue University website: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/papaya_ars.html
16. Piper, J. M. (1989). Fruits of South-east Asia: Facts and folklore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 634.60959 PIP)
17. Health benefits of papaya. (n.d.). Health Benefits Times. Retrieved 2016, April 26 from Health Benefits Times website: http://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/health-benefits-of-papaya/
18. Piper, J. M. (1989). Fruits of South-east Asia: Facts and folklore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 634.60959 PIP)
19. Burkill, I. H. (2002). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1). Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Agriculture, p. 467. (Call no.: RSING 634.9095951 BUR)
20. Morton, J. (1987). Papaya. Fruits of warm climates. Retrieved 2016, April 26 from Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue University website: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/papaya_ars.html
21. Yogiraj, V., et al. (2014). Carica papaya Linn: An overview. International Journal of Herbal Medicine, 2(5), 7. Retrieved 2016, April 26 from The International Journal of Herbal Medicine website: http://www.florajournal.com/vol2issue5/jan2015/2-4-12.1.pdf
22. Morton, J. (1987). Papaya. Fruits of warm climates. Retrieved 2016, April 26 from Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue University website: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/papaya_ars.html
23. Morton, J. (1987). Papaya. Fruits of warm climates. Retrieved 2016, April 26 from Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue University website: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/papaya_ars.html; Piper, J. M. (1989). Fruits of South-east Asia: Facts and folklore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 634.60959 PIP)
24. Hutton, W. (2000). Tropical fruits of Malaysia and Singapore. Periplus Editions, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING 634.6 HUT)
25. Morton, J. (1987). Papaya. Fruits of warm climates. Retrieved 2016, April 26 from Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue University website: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/papaya_ars.html




The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Papaya
Science and technology>>Agriculture>>Fruit crops
Tropical fruit--Singapore
Plants
Nature>>Plants