Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Papaya? Papay-no.

Before Christmas, I was shopping for Mexican Mangoes at Costco, and found none - Northern Hemisphere growing season was over, only South American growers offered Mangoes and others fresh produce.  Not wanting to encourage high carbon foot print transcontinental fruit consumption, I did not purchase the Peruvian Mangoes Costco had.

Costco DID have Papaya from Belize.  They were HUGE.  That's an 8 inch (203 mm) blade shown in the photo to the left, on my largest Schnitzelbank (cutting board).  I'd never brought or prepared a papaya before, so I contacted my friend Dr.Claudia, who used to summer in Columbia as a child for suggestions.  To my surprise, Dr.C didn't like papaya either - though she does share my love of mango - but she contacted her mother who is a strong papaya advocate.

Her advice:
- Don't eat the bitter skin, though it Does have significant health benefits.
- Don't eat the bitter seeds
- Cut up the pink-orange meaty pulp into bite sized pieces
- Serve with other fruit (which initially confused me... since mango is great all by itself).  Honey or other sweet toppings are optional.
- Enjoy the health benefits of eating papaya

The proteolytic enzymes which are rich in papaya assist in digestion.  My reasonable acupuncturist, who is a vegetarian but understands not everyone wants to be one or can be one also recommends eating papaya or taking papaya enzyme tablets after eating meat.  Many Thai restaurants shred the skins of papaya to make "salad" which has a nearly instantaneous and powerful effect of sometimes sending non-Thai diners like myself directly to the rest room, it works so well in "aiding digestion", so I was careful to skin off all the fibrous skin.

So I got the massive fruit all chopped up while Dr Desert Flower was at work and our son was visiting / recuperating with us in our home, and prepared several bowls of fruit salad using some canned Trader Joe's mandarin oranges (from Spain, not from China) I had in the back of the pantry, and a bag of frozen cubed mango which I'd nearly forgotten we had in the bottom of the freezer, bought over a year ago.  Having no whipped cream, I opted for a dollop of Cool Whip on each bowl.

How well did it work?  Eh.  Dr Desert Flower wouldn't finish hers, and picked out the pink papaya pieces.  Our son said succinctly "It tastes like medicine".  Honestly, I had to agree with him.

The sweetest part of the fruit, immediately adjacent to the seed pocket cavity, were "slightly sweet" and palatable.  Once you moved a 1/2 inch away from the center, the meat was bitter, and unpleasant.  yes, it's very possible this was not the world's most ripe papaya, but I'd let it sit for 3 weeks, immediately beside the bananas to share the ethylene oxide out-gassing in a futile attempt to hasten the ripening.  Somewhere between harvest and kitchen, my papaya was dropped, as evidenced by a dark bruised area that began to locally "rot" in a one inch oval, so waiting to cut it up was not an option.

I scooped out the remaining papaya pieces, and put them on a plate under the hummingbird feeders, hoping to entice the Gila Woodpecker who frequents our feeders to enjoy the tropical fruit.  He showed no interest in the plate of pink pulp, and after 3 weeks of 'drying in the Arizona air', defeated, I tossed the mummified papaya-turned-desiccant into the trash heap.

Mangoes? Yes.  Papaya? Papay-No.  I won't be attempting another papaya culinary creation again.

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