Our future fruiters
The papaya (Carica papaya L.) is an evergreen fruit tree of the humid and sub-humid tropics cultivated for its fruit, the papaya.
This shrub 3 to 7 m high is a dicotyledonous plant generally unbranched. Its shelf life is short, from three to five years, but it produces continuously from the first year of planting. When the main trunk is cut or broken, it is common for secondary branches to form; they can also appear naturally without alteration of the main trunk. The hollow trunk 20 cm in diameter is covered with a greenish or greyish bark, marked by leaf scars. The papaya is native to tropical America and naturalized in Africa. It is often found in the forest.
It is cultivated everywhere in the tropics in plantations from which it escapes easily and persists near dwellings. It can be subspontaneous in secondary or degraded forests. It prefers rich, moist soils.
The leaves gathered at the top of the trunk resemble those of the fig tree.
The upper surface is light green matte, the underside is whitish bloom.
The male flowers have a whitish corolla with a tube of 10-25 mm and narrow, spreading, cream-white lobes, as well as 10 stamens, 5 long and 5 short.
The female flowers have 5 petals almost free 5 cm, rounded, narrow, early deciduous and a pale yellow pistil 2-3 cm.
Flowering continues throughout the year.
The fruit, the papaya, is a berry of various shapes and sizes, 15-40 × 7-25 cm, cauliflore (= appearing directly on the trunk), with orange pulp and blackish seeds.
The whole plant contains a proteolytic enzyme, papain.
Papaya has dietary and medicinal uses. The fibers of the stems and bark can also be used for making ropes.
When ripe, the fruit is eaten fresh, seasoned with lime or fruit salad. Still green, the papaya can be eaten as a vegetable, for example grated then passed to the pan. Young leaves can be eaten as spinach and seeds as a dewormer.
Papayas are rich in papain and vitamins A, B1, B2 and C. 100 grams of pulp provide 32 kcal and 7.8 g of carbohydrates and 64 mg of vitamin C.
The black seeds, of spicy taste, are also edible.
In the West Indies, the Caribbean Indians used the green fruit as a poultice against local "inflammations" and against gastrointestinal disorders. They also wrapped raw meat in leaves to soften it. This use has long been perpetuated in the West Indies. Throughout the Caribbean, seeds and latex are recommended as a dewormer. Fruit juice or an infusion of leaves or flowers is recommended in liver conditions.
In external use, the crushed green fruit is used as a poultice against superficial skin disorders.