THE PAWPAW/PAPAYA FRUITSo, what does it look like, where does it come from and, most importantly, what is in it that is so good??
Firstly it is worth noting the different names for the fruit which you are likely to encounter - papaya, pawpaw, papaw and paw paw (and many other combinations involving "p", "w" and "a"). The term pawpaw and its derivatives are in general use in Australia whereas papaya is in use in the rest of the world.
The fruit grows on trees of the Carica Papaya species which was originally from southern Mexico, Central America and northern South America, but is now cultivated in most countries with a tropical climate, such as Australia, Brazil, India, South Africa and Southeast Asia. The tree which appears in the southern and western states of the USA should not be confused with the Carica Papaya, the USA variety belongs to a different species, Asimina Triloba.
The Carica is a large tree-like plant, the single stem growing from 5 to 10 meters tall, with spirally arranged leaves confined to the top of the trunk; the lower trunk is conspicuously scarred where leaves and fruit were borne. The leaves are large, 50-70 cm diameter, deeply palmately lobed with 7 lobes. The tree is usually unbranched if unlopped. The flowers appear on the axils of the leaves, maturing into the large 15-45 cm long, 10-30 cm diameter papaya fruit.
Raw papaya is rich in vitamins, notably vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6 and C, and minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.
The black seeds are edible and have a sharp, spicy taste. They are sometimes ground up and used as a substitute for black pepper. In some parts of Asia the young leaves of papaya are steamed and eaten like spinach. In parts of the world papaya leaves are made into tea as a preventative for Malaria, though there is no real scientific evidence for the effectiveness of this treatment.
For pawpaw/papaya ointment the active ingredient in the papaya fruit is the enzyme papain which is found in the fermented fruit.
Information/picture courtesy of Wikipedia/Britannica.