The papaya has been regarded as the most valuable of tropical fruits. The central cavity is surrounded by hundreds of small seeds, though sometimes seedless varieties of the fruits are also found.
The fruit has thin smooth skin. It is dark green in colour at first but as it ripens it changes to bright yellow or Orange. It has a delicate aroma and delicious flavour.
Papaya originated in Southern Mexico and Costa Rica. It was taken by the Spaniards to Manilla in the mid-16th century and gradually spread to all tropical and subtropical countries.
Papaya is regarded as a wholesome fruit. The vitamin C content of papaya increases as the maturity progresses. Its carbohydrate content is mainly of invert sugar which is a form of pre-digested food.
Papaya is rich in calcium, phosphorus and vitamin C and small amount of vitamin B complex.
Papaya has remarkable medicinal value which was recognised even in ancient times. It is not only one of the most easily digested fruits but also aids in the digestion of other food. Ripe papayas is an excellent tonic for growing children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.
Papaya has a protein digesting enzyme in it's milky juice or latex which runs in the network of vessels throughout the plant. The enzyme is similar to pepsin in its digestive action and is so powerful, it can digest 200 times its own weight in protein.
Papaya contains an enzyme called Papain. Papain is highly beneficial in the deficiency of gastric juice, excess of unhealthy mucus in the stomach, dyspepsia and intestinal irritation. The ripe fruit if eaten regularly helps in constipation, bleeding piles and chronic diarrhoea.
Papaya seeds are useful in expelling round worms as they contain the substance called caricin. The digestive enzyme papain found in the milky juice of unripe papaya is helpful in treating round worms.
The juice of raw papaya, being an irritant, is useful in several skin conditions. it is applied to prevent swelling in warts, pimples and other skin diseases. Ripe papaya juice works as a cosmetic, it removes freckles or brown spots due to exposure to sunlight and makes the skin smooth and delicate.
The unripe papaya helps the contraction of the muscle fibres of the womb and is thus helpful in proper menstrual flow.
It is beneficial in the treatment of corrosive of liver caused by alcoholism, malnutrition etc.
Ripe papaya is beneficial in enlargement of the spleen. Approximately 20 grams of fruit should be consumed twice with meals for helping in the treatment of spleen enlargement.
It is used in different ways. The ripe fresh fruits are eaten throughout the tropics for breakfast and desert and in fruit salads. They are used for making soft drinks jams and ice cream flavouring. Unripe fruits are generally taken as vegetable. Papain, prepared from the dried latex of immature fruits is used in meat tendering preparation, manufacturing of chewing gum in cosmetics and as a drug for digestive problems.