Story by Becky Speere
Upcycle. That is what you do when you accidentally knock a few green papayas from your tree as you clumsily maneuver your fruit picker toward the blushing, yellow-green fruit. Although the latter fulfills your plans for a sweet, ripe papaya with coconut yogurt, topped with honey-macadamia-nut granola, you have also been blessed with a rocklike green papaya. What to do?
Native to Central America, Carica papaya is a sun-loving plant present in many tropical and subtropical countries. Generally grown from seed, it’s found on Maui at elevations from sea level to 2,000 feet and can reach a height of twenty feet, producing hundreds of fruits during its two- to three-year lifespan. Mature fruit are harvestable twelve to fourteen months after planting. Inside are hundreds of viable black seeds. Gently remove them with a spoon prior to eating the sweet flesh — and if you like, purée them in a blender and add to your favorite honey-mustard salad dressing for a mild, peppery kick. Added to your favorite marinade, the papain-rich leaves have meat-tenderizing properties.
Now back to those green papayas. My favorite ways to use the fruit are in chicken tinola soup and green papaya salad. To prepare the hard fruit, cut half an inch off both ends of the papaya, creating a flat surface. Stand the papaya on its larger end, and peel the hard outer skin, using a paring knife or vegetable peeler. Be careful that the surface beneath the fruit is dry. I like to place a paper towel under the fruit to absorb the latex that seeps out. Cut the fruit in half lengthwise and remove the white, immature seeds and the soft membranes attached to them.
If you’re making the soup, cut the fruit into two-inch chunks. If you’re making green papaya salad, use a food processor with a grater attachment, or shred on the large holes of a hand grater. Now you are ready to cook!
Get the recipes:
Another papaya idea: Bake semi-ripe fruit with 1 Tbsp. salted butter, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, and 1 Tbsp. Maui honey 20 minutes in a 350-degree oven. Carefully place on a heatproof plate, and fill the hot fruit with a big scoop of Roselani vanilla ice cream. Serve immediately.