PAPAYA (Carica papaya L.)

This fruit strengthens the stomach and helps digestion. Some eat it as it comes from the tree, but others prepare it with sugar and they make a strong marmalade that is pleasant to the sight and a delicacy to taste.

Rochefort, César de; Rochefort, Charles de & Poincy, Louis de. (1665) – ‘Histoire naturelle et morale des Iles Antilles de l'Amerique’

Early adopter Christopher Columbus apparently translated the papaya’s Carib name ‘ababi’ as ‘fruit of the angels’. Also known as the pawpaw, the papaya is a small, fast-growing tropical tree. It probably originated in Mesoamerica (today’s Central America) where wild populations of the plant still occur. The Spanish took the papaya to Hispaniola Island at the beginning of the 16th century, from where it spread through the Caribbean and later to the Philippines, from where it spread rapidly throughout tropical Asia. European colonists introduced the plant to Africa and by the mid-17th century papaya was distributed across the tropics.

The fruit is eaten fresh or processed in sweets or jam. The fruits, stems, leaves and roots are rich in papain, an enzyme widely used as a meat tenderiser and also used in the textile, cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food industries. Traditionally papaya has a wide range of medical applications, such as in treatment of constipation and indigestion, and it can be used externally to treat skin lesions, and is also used as insecticide.