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Hawaiian papaya are encased in a glossy, bright yellow skin. The fragrant flesh is also a creamy yellow color and is quite sweet. The flavor has been described as a blend of mango, peach and banana. Edible, black seeds inhabit the center cavity and have a crunchy, peppery taste.
Hawaiian papayas are available year-round.
At least eight other species of the genus Carica bear edible fruits. These include C. candamarcensis, the mountain papaya of the Andes and the babaco, C. pentagona.
Impressive in nutritional benefits, papayas are high in vitamin A and antioxidants. Containing the enzyme papain, this fruit is said to aid digestion.
Slightly lacking in acidity, a squeeze of lime juice enhances this fruit's addicting flavor. Most commonly enjoyed fresh, papaya can be pureed or baked as well. Papaya can also be used to soften and tenderize thick meats such as roast beef or t-bones; spread mashed papaya over the meat and refrigerate about two hours before cooking. To store, refrigerate when ripe only. Use within a day or two or flavor will diminish.
Native to the lowlands of eastern Central America, Portuguese and Spanish explorers fell in love with this special fruit and introduced it to other settlements in the East and West Indies where its Carib name "ababai" became "papaya". Taken to the Pacific islands, papaya was grown in tropical regions by 1800. Today Hawaii is a main exporter. Virtually all papayas consumed in the United States come from Hawaii. More than 95 percent of Hawaii's papayas are grown in the rich volcanic soil of the eastern end of the island of Hawaii.