Papaya is a fruit native to North America, also called sweet or prairie banana. While the name may have originated from the Spanish term papaya, these two fruits are not related. The trees that grow papaya are the largest Native American fruit trees, ranging in height from 5.44 to 9.75 m.
The deciduous papaya tree blooms in early spring. The small flowers are deep violet in color. After spring flowering, leaves begin to sprout that appear almost out of place in their native environment. They are dark green and glossy, resembling the leaves of many tropical plants, although they turn golden in autumn. The tree is often chosen for landscaping because deer tend to avoid eating the leaves.
The fruit itself can grow in bunches or on its own. Papaya paw size ranges from 2 to 6.5 inches (5.08 to 16.51 cm) in length, with an average diameter of 1 to 2 inches (2.54 to 5.08 cm). The green fruit is light green in color, but becomes brownish-yellow when fully ripe.
Most ducks are blowfly pollinated, which sometimes makes them unattractive to growers. Those who have papaya farms often place rotten meat near the trees to increase the number of flies and thus increase the tree’s production. In addition to the proliferation of flies, the tree does not have many natural predators. However, some growers still find the cultivation of flies disgusting. Although it is native to North America, papaya does not have the popularity of other fruits, although more organic gardeners are considering developing orchards because they require little maintenance.
There are papaya detractors and supporters, as well as multiple interpretations of the fruit’s flavor. Some people liken the flavor to a cross between vanilla and banana, while others think it more closely resembles a banana and mango mix. Others find the taste, whatever it is, boring. Some people compare the fruit’s creamy texture to a rich cream.
Papaya contains more protein than most other fruits and can also be used as a fat substitute in muffin and cake recipes. An emphasis on healthy eating may inspire more to choose papaya because of its high protein to sugar ratio. Several recipes suggest using it in smoothies, cakes, chiffon pies, and ice cream. There is even a recipe for wine made with the fruit.
Some investigations into papaya have led to the belief, not supported by significant evidence, that it may have cancer-fighting properties. Native Americans used the leaves and bark to treat scarlet fever. The leaves are slightly toxic, so it may be best to leave this treatment alone. Also, some people have a hard time digesting the fruits, so at first you might want to try them carefully.