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Preparation, uses, and tips

Green, or unripe, papayas may be cooked like winter squash. Ripe papayas are terrific eaten plain or with a dollop of yogurt. Simply cut in half and remove the seeds; the flesh is tender enough to be scooped out with a spoon. Although papaya skin is not edible, its seeds are. Papaya seeds resemble large peppercorns and also have a peppery taste. They may be crushed and sprinkled on salads in the same way as crushed peppercorns. Left whole, they make an interesting garnish for a fruit salad. Add papaya to fruit salads or purée into a thick juice.

Buying and storing tips

If papayas are picked completely green and firm, they will usually not ripen, but can be used in cooking. Choose fruit that is free of black spots and damage to the skin. The spreading yellow color indicates the papaya is softening and shows how far along it is in ripening; fruit with a little yellow near the end takes five to seven days to ripen. Ripe yellow papayas may be stored in the refrigerator for about a week. Refrigeration will also slow the ripening process in fruit intended for cooking.


There are about 50 varieties of papayas, many of which are inedible and not sold commercially. Some varieties weigh up to 20 pounds (9 kg) while others average 8 ounces (227g). Most common commercial varieties, such as the Hawaiian Solo, are on the small side. Papayas with reddish flesh have a taste that differs from that of the orange-fleshed types, which are sweeter. The babáco, a natural papaya hybrid from Ecuador, is often canned or made into jam, but is also good eaten fresh.

Nutrition Highlights

Papaya (raw, cubes), 1 cup
Calories: 55
Protein: 0.85g
Carbohydrate: 13.7g
Total Fat: 0.19g
Fiber: 2.5g
*Excellent source of: Vitamin C (86.5mg)
*Good source of: Folate (53.2mcg)

*Foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value. Foods that are a “good source” of a particular nutrient provide between 10 and 20% of the Recommended Daily Value.

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