If you’re someone like me who grew up in the tropics, you often crave fruits and vegetables that are not always easy to find when you live elsewhere. And when you do, they just don’t have the same deliciousness that you remember. That’s why I rarely eat papayas. I associate papayas with my grandmother. Whenever my siblings and I would visit her home she always seemed have a nice ripe papaya ready to slice up for us to enjoy.
In Jamaica we call them “pawpaw”. For those of you who have never had pawpaw, they’re most similar in texture to a melon like cantaloupe, but denser, softer and sweeter. The papayas in Jamaica today tend to be more round than long, which is often the type (from South America) that I see most in my local supermarket. On one of my recent trips to Jamaica I visited a papaya farm in St. Elizabeth, in central Jamaica. Row after rows of fruit trees lined the property and the fruit we sample brought back some of my best papaya memories.
Though I do think that Jamaican papayas are delicious and worth exporting, I prefer to enjoy them at their best when I visit home; either as one of the ingredients in a tropical fruit salad or just sliced and sprinkled with fresh lime juice… sublime.
Shopping Tips: When shopping for a ripe papaya, look for skin that is turning from green to yellow. Parts of the papaya may look bruised – this is normal. You should be able to press your thumb into the flesh. If it’s too soft or mushy, or if it has a sweet smell to it, the papaya is overripe. If you buy a firmer, green-skined papaya, it will ripen within approx. 1 to 3 days on your counter.