SCIENTIFIC NAME: Carica papaya
FAMILY: Caricaceae

Papayas are often called Paw Paw in Australia, and this sometimes causes confusion, for the Paw Paw (Asimina triloba) is an entirely different fruit, quite unlike the large fruit which we all call 'Paw Paw'.

Normally propagated from seed, the Papaya has the distinction of being one of the most rapidly growing of tropical plants and should be a must in everyone's garden where climate allows it to be possible to grow.

Within its first year, when the tree is only between six and ten feet tall, it bears quite a heavy crop of fruit and continues to do so for a few years, then it dies away. Planting of new Papayas should be coming on at different stages so as not to be without this marvellous fruit.

For hundreds of years, the natives of the Caribbean regarded the Papaya as a magic tree because of its ability to keep them healthy. They discovered that if they rubbed meat with the juice of the fruit, or wrapped it in Papaya leaves prior to cooking, the toughest meat became tender. They powdered the leaves and took them as a medicine when suffering from stomach acidity. They also found they could eat as much meat and fish as they liked without suffering any ill effects - provided they finished their meal with Papaya fruit.

Modern scientific investigations into the properties of the Payaya have confirmed a protein-digesting enzyme in the milky juice, or latex, which is carried in a network of vessels throughout the plant. It is reputed to be so powerful (given the name papain) that it can digest two hundred times its own weight in protein. Its effect is to assist the body's own enzymes in assimilating the maximum nutritional value from food.

Also, an alkaloid called carpaine is extracted from the leaves for use in the drug industry, and 25% of a Papaya seed is made up of a pale non-drying oil which has not yet become commercialized.

The fresh fruit is also a source of natural sugars, Vitamins A and C. The B vitamins, niacin, riboflavin and thiamin, are present in small quantities, and there is a fair amount of calcium.

It is good to remember that all fruit, including the Papaya, purify the blood of its toxic substances, cleanse the tissues, and help the body to resist disease.

DATE: November 1980

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