Papaya or pawpaw – Carica papaya
The papaya is a small tree 1.8 to 6 meters tall, with a soft, hollow trunk. When cut, the entire plant exudes a milky juice. The trunk is rough and the leaves are crowded at the trunk’s apex. The fruit grows directly from the trunk, among and below the leaves. The fruit is green before ripening. When ripe, it turns yellow or remains greenish with a squashlike appearance.
Habitat and Distribution:
Papaya is found in rain forests and semievergreen seasonal forests in tropical regions and in some temperate regions as well. Look for it in moist areas near clearings and former habitations. It is also found in open, sunny places in uninhabited jungle areas.
The ripe fruit is high in vitamin C. Eat it raw or cock it like squash. Place green fruit in the sun to make it ripen quickly. Cook the young papaya leaves, flowers, and stems carefully, changing the water as for taro. CAUTION: Be careful not to get the milky sap from the unripe fruit into your eyes. It will cause intense pain and temporary–sometimes even permanent–blindness.Other Uses: Use the milky juice of the unripe fruit to tenderize tough meat. Rub the juice on the meat.