The papaya, aka the pawpaw, is regarded as one of nature’s ultimate nutritional powerhouses. Originally hailing from Mexico and Hawaii, this superfood is an excellent source of antioxidants and contains carotenes; vitamins A, B, and C; folic and pantothenic acid; potassium; magnesium; and fiber. Additionally, you’ll find the anti-inflammatory enzyme papain, which boosts digestion and supports a strong immune system if ingested. If used topically, it can help heal wounds, burns, and rashes. Note: Because a rash of disease in the ’90s, a papaya grown on the Hawaiian Islands has to be genetically modified to defend itself. Be cautious of where you get your papaya.
>>Ginger Roasted Papaya
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Split 2 medium Solo papayas in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Place in a 9- by 13-inch baking pan, flesh-side up. Mix together ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger with 2 tablespoons of light brown sugar. Sprinkle this evenly over the papaya. Bake 35-40 minutes, brushing the flesh of the cooking fruit with the melted sugar mixture twice during this time. When the edges begin to darken, remove from the oven, dust with cayenne, and serve with lime wedges.
>>Spicy Guacamole with Papaya
Dice 1 small papaya and coat with the juice of 1 lime. Chop and seed 1 habanero chile pepper. Season with ½ teaspoon of sea salt, then mash together into a paste with a mortar and pestil or the side of a chef’s knife blade. Mince the paste with ½ cup of fresh cilantro. Dice 2 avocados and half of a red onion. Mix all prepared ingredients together and season to taste.
>>Papaya and Mango Jam
Combine 1 firm, ripe, fresh papaya (peeled, seeded and cut into ½ inch cubes), 1 ½ pounds firm, ripe fresh mangoes (peeled, cut away from stone, cut into ½ inch cubes), 3 cups of sugar, and 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice in a saucepan. On medium heat, allow the mixture to come to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered to thicken, stirring often. It will take 30-40 minutes for the jam to reduce. Meanwhile, boil 7 pint-sized canning jars to sterilize (or use your dishwasher). Spoon the jam into the hot jars, filling each to within 1/8 inch of the rim. Seal tightly and cool.