Before I extol the goodness of papaya, let me tell you that this fruit was the only studied food found to halt breast cancer. And this is not a myth but the result of a study carried out by scientists. They studied fourteen plant foods that were commonly consumed in Mexico. They included mango, pineapple, grapes, tomato, avocado, black sapote, papaya and a few others and it was found that only papaya had a significant effect on stopping breast cancer cell growth. In fact papaya is a power house of lycopene which has cancer fighting properties.
In fact it is presence of carotenoids, which gives ripe papaya that dark orange colour. It is not just carotene, it is also rich in lycopene which makes it highly reactive towards oxygen and free radicals.
Where did papaya come from
Though the exact origins of papaya is not known but some say it is native to southern Mexico and Central America. The papaya is a melon like fruit with yellow-orange flesh enclosed in a thin skin that varies in colour from green to orange to rose. This is the ripe papaya but here we are going to discuss the raw papaya. Raw papaya has green skin and the flesh is white. The seeds are blackish and slightly gelatinous. The papaya tree can grow from seed to a twenty foot, fruit bearing tree in less than eighteen months. The fruit can range in size from half kilogram to almost nine kilograms.
Medicinal properties of papaya
Being a proteolytic enzyme, papain is able to destroy intestinal parasites, which are composed mostly of protein. To rid the body of intestinal parasites, half a cup of papaya juice can be alternated each hour for twelve consecutive hours with the same amount of cucumber or green bean juice.
Papaya also contains fibrin, another useful compound not readily found in the plant kingdom. Fibrin reduces the risk of blood clots and improves the quality of blood cells, optimizing the ability of blood to flow through the circulatory system. Fibrin is also important in preventing strokes. Proteolytic enzymes containing fibrin can minimize the possibility of blood clots in the legs during long plane rides. In fact, I would advise people who sit at a desk all day to take advantage of proteolytic enzymes.
That’s not all, proteolytic enzymes can also digest and destroy the defence shields of viruses, tumours, allergens, yeasts, and various forms of fungus. Once the shield is destroyed, tumours and invading organisms become extremely vulnerable and easily taken care of by the immune system. Undigested proteins can penetrate the gut and wind up in the bloodstream where they are treated by the immune system as invaders. If too many undigested proteins are floating around, the immune system becomes overburdened and is unable to attend the other tasks it is supposed to do. Proteolytic enzymes can digest these rogue proteins, freeing up the immune system.
Papaya takes on different forms in the kitchen
The mention of papaya takes me back to my hotel days. The papaya was used frequently to carve into beautiful centre pieces especially on the salad table. This fruit takes to carving beautifully but of course it should be firm. For carving purposes it is the ripe papaya that is used mostly because of its bright orange colour.
That’s all about the ripe papaya, but now I will discuss about the raw papaya. Raw papaya is an excellent meat tenderizer. The enzyme papain present in it partially breaks down the fibres of the meat. Papain is also used to treat cuts, rashes, stings and burns. Raw papaya chutney is served with papdi and fafda (traditional Gujarati snacks). In South India raw papaya is used to make some delicious dishes. My mother often makes kachche papita ke paranthe and papaya ki launj.
As a fruit, my kids needed some cajoling to take it up seriously. I tried fresh fruit as cubes with a dash of lemon served with fancy toothpicks. Then I gave them whole slices in boat shapes with a little cherries at the ends. Then I tried a slush with papaya, orange, honey, lemon juice, black salt and lots of crushed ice. Guess what they liked the most? All three! So that was one battle well won!
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.