Papayas are spherical or pear-shaped fruits that can be as long as 20 inches. The ones commonly found in the market usually average about 7 inches and weigh about one pound. Their flesh is a rich orange color with either yellow or pink hues. Inside the inner cavity of the fruit are black, round seeds encased in a gelatinous-like substance. Papaya’s seeds are edible, although their peppery flavor is somewhat bitter. The fruit, as well as the other parts of the papaya tree, contain papain, an enzyme that helps digest proteins. This enzyme is especially concentrated in the fruit when it is unripe. Papain is extracted to make digestive enzyme dietary supplements and is also used as an ingredient in some chewing gums.
HOW TO GROW
- Prepare your soil.Choose a nutrient-rich potting mix for tropical plants, or make your own mix out of garden soil and 25–50% compost. As long as the soil drains well, the exact soil texture doesn’t matter. Papaya will grow in sandy, loamy, or rocky soils
- Prepare the seeds.You can use seeds scraped out of the center of a papaya fruit, or seeds purchased from a gardening store. Press seeds against the side of a colander to break the sac surrounding the seeds, without breaking the seeds themselves. Rinse thoroughly, then dry in a dark location on a paper towel.
- Plant seeds.You may plant seeds directly in your garden to avoid the risks of transplanting them later, or you may plant them in pots to have greater control of plant arrangement once you see which ones are sprouting. Poke the seeds into the soil about 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) under the surface and about 2 inches (5 cm) apart from each other.
- Plant as many seeds as you have room for to increase the odds of both male and female plants sprouting; you can remove the weaker plants later on. There is no feasible way to tell whether a plant is male, female, or hermaphroditic before planting.
- Water the soil moderately well.Water thoroughly after planting, but do not soak to the point that standing water forms on the soil. Monitor the moisture over the next few weeks and water as necessary, keeping the soil slightly damp, but not soggy.
- Determine which seedlings to keep.Approximately two to five weeks after planting, some of the seeds will germinate, and emerge through the soil surface as seedlings. After giving them a week or two to grow, pull out or cut the smallest seedlings, along with any seedlings that appear withered, spotted, or otherwise unhealthy.] Cull plants until you have only one plant per pot, or the seedlings are at least three feet (0.9m) apart. Keep at least five plants for now for a 96% chance or higher to produce both male and female trees.
- Once you’ve chosen your most successful plants, move on to the section on planting, if transplanting to your garden, or the section on general care otherwise.
- Once plants are flowering, remove excess male plants.If you still have more plants than you want to end up with, wait until the plants are about 3 feet (0.9 m) tall to see what sex each plant is. The male plants should flower first, producing long, thin stalks with several flowers. Female flowers are larger and near the trunk. In order to produce fruit, you only need one male plant for every ten to fifteen females; the rest can be removed
- In addition to proper papaya growing conditions, suitable care of papaya fruit trees is also important. In order for papaya trees to thrive, they require some fertilizer. Provide young plants fertilizer every 14 days using ¼ pound of complete fertilizer. Fertilize older trees with fertilizer once a month. Also, be sure to take a soil sample and amend as necessary. Water trees frequently for best fruit production. Mulch trees with 4 inches of wood chips to help retain moisture, taking care to keep the mulch 8 to 12 inches from the trunk.
- Papayas get a whole slew of viruses and diseases, transmitted by sucking insects. Those problems are greatest during times when the plants are stressed already, for example because they have wet feet.
I don’t think it’s worth worrying about diseases, or trying to treat them. Just plant more.
Young, vigorous papayas are least affected by insects or diseases. Just keep planting lots of them, and always keep just the best. The planting method outlined above, and regular replanting, are the best way to ensure a regular supply of papaya.
- Vitamin C is one of the strong points of papaya, providing a whopping 144% of the daily recommended value per serving, which is great as an infection fighter as well as a free radical-scavenging antioxidant. Other vitamins include 31% of the daily value in vitamin A, required for healthy skin, mucous membranes, and vision, and especially effective against macular degeneration. Papaya provides 13% of the DRV in folate, and good amounts of fiber and potassium, a cell and body fluid component that helps control heart rate and blood pressure.
- The B vitamins in papayas such as folic acid, pyridoxine (vitamin B6), riboflavin, and thiamin (vitamin B1) are called “essential” because they’re required by your body, but not produced by your body, so they need an outside source to provide what is needed to metabolize – that’s why including foods like papaya in your diet is important.
- Papaya is a natural remedy for many ailments, including atherosclerosis, heart disease, and rheumatoid arthritis, and helps keep your digestive and immune systems healthy. Papaya also contains the flavonoid beta carotene, which studies have proven to help protect against lung and mouth cancers. Other flavonoids, namely lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthins, have potent antioxidant properties against free radicals that can wear down your body and cause premature aging and degenerative diseases.
- Papayas contain 212 amino acids and several enzymes, including papain, a proteolytic enzyme that has an anti-inflammatory effect on the stomach, including swelling and fever that can develop post-surgery. Papain helps proteins digest faster, which discourages acid reflux, and has demonstrated effectiveness in treating ulcers and even relieving irritable bowel syndrome. Papaya seeds have been used in folk medicine to treat parasite and ringworm infections.