to picking out a great papaya? Once you've got it, how do you
know it's truly at its best and ready to be eaten?
Once again we turn to fruit connoisseur Ken Love to give us the low
How To Ripen Papaya: The Types of Papaya
There are numerous size and shape differences among papayas, not to
mention differences in the textures of the flesh, Love said,
"From small 'inside the palm of the hand size' to 3’ long
monsters. Flavors vary almost as much, from a tangy resinous
taste to melt in the mouth sweet."
Although papaya trees (technically a large herb) produce a steady
stream of fruit, they're susceptible to numerous diseases.
"In Hawaii (a major growing region for the US
supply), the ringspot
virus affects the appearance and after awhile,
the meat of the fruit," Love said. "Papaya being replanted often is
preventing outbreak— it also makes it easier to pick rather than trying
to get them from a 30’ tree. Papaya are very fast from seed to
fruit, as little as 18 months.
If you're picking papaya directly from the tree, the key is to wait as
long as you can, Love said, conscious of the fact that the riper the
fruit gets, the more chance there will be of it being eaten by a bird,
rat, or bat. Usually papaya are picked when they start to turn yellow,
orange, or red, as a means of preventing this.
If you're buying at the farmer's market or supermarket, "fruit should
firm but mostly colored," he said. "Only
green papaya may be good shredded for salads, but can be pretty strong
to just eat raw. Buying fruit mostly colored, no matter where you are,
usually safe. How sweet it is depends on when it was picked."
Once you've found a good, colorful papaya, how do you know its fully
ripe and ready to be eaten?
Ken is the Executive Director of Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers and
owner of Love Family Farms on Hawaii's Big Island. Besides being a
vegan and a lover of fruit, he's lived in Hawaii
for over 30 years, and is a proponent of sustainable and organic
"I tend to like papaya when it is picked ripe off the tree and
then wait another day until the skin is soft and the soft meat
can be easily take with a spoon," Love said. "Some restaurants
serve harder papaya
precut in the shell but I find the taste resinous. Its hard to
beat a soft fresh papaya with its distinctive odor."
Tastes differ regarding how ripe is best. Personally, I like them as
sweet, juicy, and soft as possible. I want the outside skin to give
easily to pressure. If the skin is starting to get really soft, all the
better. This can take 2-3 days of ripening off the tree.
Others will prefer slightly more firm flesh, and should not wait as