If you are growing your own papaya, there are many ways to enjoy this fruit besides when it is fully ripe. Before we moved to Hawaii and were living and growing papaya in Florida, I had no idea that you can eat this fruit like a vegetable. Other fruit you can eat in the green stages are star fruit, tomato and breadfruit. I venture to find more fruit that you can eat before they are ripe.
I grow only non-GMO or organic papaya and several years ago had all my plants tested and removed that were not. It’s an endeavor to make sure that people bringing papaya to my land dispose of the seeds in a way that they will not find their way to the ground and germinate. An organic papaya can be pollinated by a bee carrying GMO pollen but it only makes the seeds from them genetically modified.
In commercial applications, multiple plants are placed in the planting hole. In the first thinning, only the strong are left. Then the grower waits for flowers to determine the plant’s sex before the next thinning. One single large flower means that it is a female and the grower will remove this stalk. The fruit of the female plant is round and fat not pear shaped which is the shape we are most used to seeing at the market. The female fruit is undesirable not because of its taste but because of its shape. The round shaped fruits take up more room on the stalk and therefore produce less fruit per tree. Often you will see female fruits in home gardens but never in a commercial setting.
The preferred plant is the multiple flowered plant with one large female flower surrounded by tube shaped males called a hermaphrodite that produces both pollen and ovaries and pear-shaped fruit. Very rarely you will find a single male plant which has a large cascading array of small flowers. I usually keep male plants because I feel they are spreading good non-GMO pollen into the world. But a commercial grower will remove these as well. Eventually, one healthy hermaphrodite plant will be left in the planting hole, the others removed.
If you have a hermaphrodite you know is non-GMO, you can propagate non-GMO seeds by covering the female flower with a small bag before it has opened. It will be fertilized by it own male flowers. After the fruit has ripened you can dry the seeds and germinate them.
I’m sorry to report, but in my opinion, the only way you are going to ever taste a real papaya is to grow your own or purchase it from a local organic supplier. Even the ones shipped to the mainland have been either heat treated, fumigated or irradiated (or both heat treated and irradiated) to kill any fruit fly larva. Heat treating papaya extends their life an extra two days.
There is much to talk about when one is talking about papayas. But let’s move on to the real reason I am talking about them, green papaya salad. Once you secure a organic papaya tree, you can pick off a few of the almost ripe yet still very green papayas.
You will want to peel off the skins and cut them in half to scoop out the white sometimes brown seeds. The papaya can be totally green or have some pink coloring which will add a slight sweetness to your salad. I do not like to shred them with a regular cheese-type grater. In fact, I don’t like to use that type of shredder for anything but cheese. I use a mandolin or a V-slicer that will Julienne the fruit. Once grated you can begin to assemble your salad. For a list of ingredients and to a make the salad follow the steps below:
- 2-3 ripe tomatoes
- 1-2 Hawaiian peppers
- 1-1/2 tbs of fish sauce
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 cups shredded green papaya
- 3/4 – 1 whole Tahitian lime
- 1-2 tbs of honey
- 2 tbs toasted macadamia nuts or peanuts
Crush the garlic and pepper with a mortar and add to the shredded green papaya. Next pour in the lime juice or slice up the lime with skin and add. Add the fish sauce and pound with the mortar to bruise and release the juices of the papaya. Slice the tomatoes, add and lightly pound. Add honey and mix. Lastly, top with toasted mac nuts or peanuts and serve.
You are sure to impress your guests with a green papaya salad. Both refreshing and delicious.