That orange juice impostor over there? It’s papaya juice. I’m drawn to the glowing-golden orange hue of the ripe papaya, a noble pear-shaped tropical fruit native to Central America. And I adore the fruit’s thick, incredibly sweet and luscious flesh. Even better: Nutritionally speaking, papayas are a so-called “super food,” with noted digestive benefits and stomach-soothing abilities; scientists think the fruit may also fight both cancer cells and kidney disease as well. Papayas contain the enzyme papain, which breaks down protein and naturally tenderizes meat; this has been noted since ancient times, when tropical cultures made a practice of wrapping papaya leaves around meat. Here’s how to pick a good papaya. Papayas are grown in the tropics around the globe, but Hawaii, Mexico, and South Africa are the commercial export hotbeds. In the tropics they grow year-round, but in supermarkets they’re mostly available in summer months.
Tip: When choosing a papaya, pick one that is subtly soft and gently gives to pressure much in the same way that a ripe avocado does; look for skin that is unmarred by bruises, cuts, or moldy spots. Store papayas at room temperature (never in a refrigerator) until ripe, then cut them in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Cut the fruit into manageable pieces, sprinkle with lime juice, and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving or juicing.
P.S. Food writer Shaina Olmanson has some great detailed tips for picking and preparing papayas right here.
P.P.S. Brooke McLay purees papayas and turns them into colorful and delicious ice cubes for cool summer drinks right here.