How to Pick Papaya
As you shop for papaya, look for yellow fruit that feels slightly soft underfoot and yields to thumb pressure. Additionally, its skin should feel heavy for its size and yield easily to thumb pressure.
An ripe papaya will have an intensely fragrant, fruity fragrance and its skin will have transitioned from green to yellow or orange hues.
Picking a Papaya
Papayas (Carica papayas) are tropical fruits native to Mexico and northern South America, yet widespread today across subtropical and tropical regions worldwide. Long cultivated for cultivation purposes, their fruits, leaves and stems can be used in savory preparations while their seeds may be ground as an ingredient or even used as meat tenderizer. Papayas boast sweet yet musky flavor characteristics often enjoyed raw.
Green papayas can be found at most grocery stores and specialty markets. If you want the freshest and ripest papayas available, look for ones with heavy bodies that boast vibrant green coloring with yellow or orange highlights, with no brown, shriveled or soft spots; any that lack any green at all may already be overripe and have an unpleasant flavor.
An immature papaya should give in slightly to gentle pressure, similar to how an avocado yields to gentle pressure. Furthermore, its light sweet aroma should be easily detectable when touching it; furthermore, its skin should remain somewhat flexible without becoming soft or soggy.
For optimal flavor, papayas should be eaten within two or three days for best results. After this point, they begin to overripe and lose their crisp and fresh texture; still edible but best used in salads or soups rather than being consumed raw.
Firmness testing is the easiest way to tell whether or not papayas are ready. Gently press down with your thumb on its skin as you would an avocado; when ready, ripe papayas should yield to light pressure from finger pressure without sponginess or hardness in texture, but still yield under finger pressure; an unripe papaya that feels spongey will have very little flavor, while one that feels soft but firm could still have great flavors for cooking or salad purposes; any overripe or sweetened fruit would likely have an unpleasant flavor, making it better suited for use than raw in salad form.
Ripening a Papaya
Papayas can ripen fairly rapidly at room temperature, and are irresistibly delicious when perfectly ripe. To tell when your papaya is ready, give lightly to gentle pressure, feel heavy for its size, smell sweetly and have pale yellow or orange skin that may have minor blemishes.
TIP: One way to speed up papaya ripening is to combine it with another fruit that emits ethylene gas such as banana, avocado or apple, which causes papaya ripening faster – this strategy could reduce ripening time from weeks or days, depending on how green the papaya was originally.
Another effective method of ripening papayas is to score it three times lengthwise with a sharp knife before placing it in a bowl of water. This technique uses water’s inherent properties to envelop and seal off its natural gases, speeding up ripening time if your papaya was very green initially.
Depending on your urgency, other methods exist that will speed up ripening papaya. Refrigeration will help slow the ripening process because cold temperatures inhibit its ability to produce its own ethylene gas; an alternate strategy involves placing bread slices overtop the papaya to also speed up its development.
Remember to eat a ripe papaya within two or three days after picking. Otherwise, its chances of spoiling and turning bitter increase rapidly. If a papaya cannot be eaten right away, place it in the refrigerator and remove only when ready to consume; this will lengthen its freshness while also preventing bacteria growth that would otherwise speed up spoilage.
Ripening a Green Papaya
Purchase papayas from the produce section is generally safe bet. But some shoppers may prefer papayas with more green on them – and turning these green papayas into snackable fruits is easy!
Assuming you have prepared the papaya beforehand, begin by placing it on a flat surface such as a cutting board or counter. Handle carefully as this fruit can be quite juicy; have a paper towel nearby ready to absorb any spillage.
Next, slice it lengthwise. Make sure the flesh inside looks fresh and free from discolorations or brown spots, with skin that gives slightly when pressed and has an aromatic sweetness. After cutting it open, use a spoon to scoop out and extract its seeds with membrane – they have an intense mustard and peppercorn-esque taste! The seeds themselves are edible but their taste varies significantly between varieties.
Once the seeds and skin have been removed (this can be tricky due to papayas’ natural latex, which will make your hands somewhat slippery), you can cut into slices for direct eating or cubes for smoothies or fruit salads.
If you need a papaya quickly for an upcoming recipe, place the cut papaya into a paper bag containing ethylene gas; this will speed up its ripening time more rapidly than it would on its own.
For those in a rush, another method that can speed up ripening papayas quickly is using a paring knife to score vertical lines along its skin using vertical strokes, taking care not to puncture through its flesh as this may lead to early spoilage. Scoring encourages rapid release of ethylene gas which produces exceptionally sweet fruit; this method works particularly well when dealing with larger green papayas that take more effort to ripen than most varieties can manage.
Ripening a Super Green Papaya
After discovering some unripe papaya at our grocery store, I wanted to experiment with making a green papaya salad. Although different from your average salad, it’s deliciously refreshing with its combination of crisp, sweet, and savory ingredients. To create this salad I started by shredding raw papaya along with carrots, cilantro, chilis and peppers – before mixing this mixture with some toasted peanuts and light lime-citrus dressing before topping it with sesame seeds for extra crunch and flavor – creating the ideal summer treat!
Unripe papaya has become more commonly available in United States grocery stores over time. While more costly than its riper counterpart, unripe papaya offers an ideal alternative if ripe ones cannot be obtained at the right time. Unripe papaya resembles melons in terms of texture and has a mildly bitter astringent taste that adds interesting depth to salads or fruit bowls.
Not all papaya plants will ripen at the same rate; those grown in tropical environments usually take six to nine months before producing fruit in summer and fall, according to commercial growers’ harvest times; home growers should wait for them to reach at least 3/4 yellow color before picking.
To tell if a papaya is ready, gently press its skin with your thumb and observe whether or not it gives slightly. A properly ripened papaya should have soft, yielding skin with an aromatic sweet-fruity scent that beckons you to devour it immediately. If its skin remains very firm or has dark spots then its peak has passed and should not be eaten immediately.
If your papaya has yet to ripen, place it in a paper bag with banana or apple (both producing ethylene gas) to accelerate its ripening at room temperature. It should take only several days.