Fresh ripe pawpaw, green pawpaw and Thai green pawpaw Som Tam salad
these big green-skinned fruit in the supermarket, wondered what they were, then walked straight on because you didn’t have a clue? They are papaya, a tropical fruit native to Mexico, although India also produces a very large number. We were even able to cultivate some healthy papaya plants growing in the community gardens (in our tunnel house), but unfortunately, they never fruited and so we pulled them out to make room for other plants. Sometimes called pawpaw, papaya have a sweet flavour, beautiful golden coloured flesh and offer numerous health benefits. Nutritionally they are loaded with protein, fibre, carbohydrates, folate, Vitamins A, Bs, K and E as well as magnesium, copper, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, calcium and potassium. If mashed and applied to wounds the enzymes in papaya even promote healing.
Papaya have a dark green skin so it’s sometimes difficult to tell if they are fully ripe. Use unripe fruit to make the very popular Thai Som Tam salad in which they are grated. Even the seeds are edible, either fresh or dried. They have a bitter, peppery taste and are a good source of antioxidants. Some people do find the smell a little unpleasant, but this can be minimised with the application of lime juice. I often cut the flesh into chunks and freeze it for later use in a smoothie. Chunks can also be incorporated into a fresh fruit salad or, depending on your taste, tossed with smoked chicken to make a savoury salad.
After you’ve read the following suggestions for utilising this delicious fruit you may never walk past them in the supermarket again!
• Cut papaya in half and remove the seeds. Squeeze lime juice into the resultant hollows and eat with a spoon right out of the skin.
• Use in a tropical fruit salad combined with fresh diced pineapple and mango.
• Make a delicious tropical fruit smoothie using frozen papaya chunks, half a frozen banana, pineapple juice, Greek yogurt and pineapple juice.
• Make a salsa by combining papaya, mango, red onion, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, coriander, salt and pepper. Serve over avocado quarters arranged in a star shape on serving plates.