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Papaya tree and fruit, from Koehler's Medicinal-Plants (1887)
Scientific classification
Species:C. papaya
Binomial name
Carica papaya
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Papaya tree and fruit, from Koehler's Medicinal-Plants (1887)
Scientific classification
Species:C. papaya
Binomial name
Carica papaya
Papaya output in 2005, shown as a percentage of the top producer, Brazil (1.7 megatonnes)

The papaya /pəˈpə/ or /pəˈpɑːjə/ (from Carib via Spanish), papaw, or pawpaw is the fruit of the plant Carica papaya, the sole species in the genus Carica of the plant family Caricaceae. It is native to the tropics of the Americas, perhaps from southern Mexico and neighbouring Central America.[2] It was first cultivated in Mexico[citation needed] several centuries before the emergence of the Mesoamerican classical civilizations.

The papaya is a large, tree-like plant, with a single stem growing from 5 to 10 m (16 to 33 ft) tall, with spirally arranged leaves confined to the top of the trunk. The lower trunk is conspicuously scarred where leaves and fruit were borne. The leaves are large, 50–70 cm (20–28 in) in diameter, deeply palmately lobed, with seven lobes. Unusually for such large plants, the trees are dioecious. The tree is usually unbranched, unless lopped. The flowers are similar in shape to the flowers of the Plumeria, but are much smaller and wax-like. They appear on the axils of the leaves, maturing into large fruit - 15–45 cm (5.9–17.7 in) long and 10–30 cm (3.9–11.8 in) in diameter. The fruit is ripe when it feels soft (as soft as a ripe avocado or a bit softer) and its skin has attained an amber to orange hue.

Carica papaya was the first transgenic fruit tree to have its genome deciphered.[3]

Common names[edit]

Carica papaya plants and their fruits are known by different names around the English-speaking world:


Carica papaya is native to the New World in Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela, and northern Argentina.[1] C. papaya has become naturalized in the Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the U.S. state of Florida, and Malawi and Tanzania in Africa.[1] Additional crops of C. papaya are grown in Australia, the Philippines, and the U.S. state of Hawaii.[1]


Papaya seedlings

Gaining in popularity among tropical fruits worldwide, papaya is now ranked third with 11.22 Mt, or 15.36 percent of the total tropical fruit production, behind mango with 38.6 Mt (52.86%) and pineapple with 19.41 Mt (26.58%). Global papaya production has grown significantly over the last few years, mainly as a result of increased production in India.[7] Papaya has become an important agricultural export for developing countries, where export revenues of the fruit provide a livelihood for thousands of people, especially in Asia and Latin America. Papaya exports contribute to the growing supply of healthy food products on international markets. The top three exporting countries accounted for 63.28 percent of the total global exports of papaya between 2007 and 2009, with more than half of those exports going to the United States.

Global papaya production is highly concentrated, with the top ten countries averaging 86.32 percent of the total production for the period 2008–2010. India is the leading papaya producer, with a 38.61 percent share of the world production during 2008–2010, followed by Brazil (17.5%) and Indonesia (6.89%). Other important papaya producing countries and their share of global production include Nigeria (6.79%), Mexico (6.18%), Ethiopia (2.34%), Democratic Republic of the Congo (2.12%), Colombia (2.08%), Thailand (1.95%), and Guatemala (1.85%).

Originally from southern Mexico (particularly Chiapas and Veracruz), Central America, and northern South America, the papaya is now cultivated in most tropical countries. In cultivation, it grows rapidly, fruiting within three years. It is, however, highly frost-sensitive, limiting its production to tropical climates. Temperatures below 29° Fahrenheit are greatly harmful if not fatal. In Florida, growth is generally limited to southern parts of the state. It also prefers sandy, well-drained soil as standing water will kill the plant within 24 hours.[8]

Pests and diseases[edit]

Papayas are susceptible to the papaya ringspot virus (PRV), which causes premature molting and malformation of the leaves.[9] In the 1990s, the virus threatened to wipe out Hawaii's papaya industry completely.

The papaya is also susceptible to fruit flies, which lay eggs in the fruit.


Papayas with yellow flesh
Papaya with red flesh

Two kinds of papayas are commonly grown. One has sweet, red or orange flesh, and the other has yellow flesh; in Australia, these are called "red papaya" and "yellow papaw", respectively.[10] Either kind, picked green, is called a "green papaya."

The large-fruited, red-fleshed 'Maradol', 'Sunrise', and 'Caribbean Red' papayas often sold in US markets are commonly grown in Mexico and Belize.[11]

In 2011 Philippine researchers reported that by hybridizing papaya with Vasconcellea quercifolia they had developed conventionally bred, nongenetically engineered papaya resistant to PRV.[12]

Genetically engineered cultivars[edit]

In response to the papaya ringspot virus (PRV) outbreak in Hawaii, genetically altered papaya were generated and brought to market (including 'SunUp' and 'Rainbow') that have some PRV DNA incorporated into the DNA of the plant are resistant to PRVs.[9][13] This was so successful that by 2010, 80% of Hawaiian papaya plants were genetically modified.[14][15]


Papayas can be used as a food, a cooking aid and in traditional medicine. The stem and bark may be used in rope production.

Meat tenderizing[edit]

Both green papaya fruit and the tree's latex are rich in papain, a protease used for tenderizing meat and other proteins. Its ability to break down tough meat fibers was used for thousands of years by indigenous Americans. It is now included as a component in powdered meat tenderizers.

Nutrients, phytochemicals and culinary practices[edit]

Papayas, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy179 kJ (43 kcal)
Carbohydrates10.82 g
- Sugars7.82 g
- Dietary fiber1.7 g
Fat0.26 g
Protein0.47 g
Vitamin A equiv.47 μg (6%)
- beta-carotene274 μg (3%)
- lutein and zeaxanthin89 μg
Thiamine (vit. B1)0.023 mg (2%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2)0.027 mg (2%)
Niacin (vit. B3)0.357 mg (2%)
Pantothenic acid (B5)0.191 mg (4%)
Vitamin B60.038 mg (3%)
Folate (vit. B9)38 μg (10%)
Vitamin C62 mg (75%)
Vitamin E0.3 mg (2%)
Vitamin K2.6 μg (2%)
Calcium20 mg (2%)
Iron0.25 mg (2%)
Magnesium21 mg (6%)
Manganese0.04 mg (2%)
Phosphorus10 mg (1%)
Potassium182 mg (4%)
Sodium8 mg (1%)
Zinc0.08 mg (1%)
Lycopene1828 µg
Link to USDA Database entry
Percentages are roughly approximated
using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Papaya fruit is a source of nutrients such as provitamin A carotenoids, vitamin C, folate and dietary fiber. Papaya skin, pulp and seeds also contain a variety of phytochemicals, including lycopene and polyphenols. In preliminary research, danielone, a phytoalexin found in papaya fruit, showed antifungal activity against Colletotrichum gloesporioides, a pathogenic fungus of papaya.[16]

The ripe fruit of the papaya is usually eaten raw, without skin or seeds. The unripe green fruit can be eaten cooked, usually in curries, salads, and stews. Green papaya is used in Southeast Asian cooking, both raw and cooked.[17] In Thai cuisine, papaya is used to make Thai salads such as som tam and Thai curries such as kaeng som when still not fully ripe. In Indonesian cuisine, the unripe green fruits and young leaves are boiled for use as part of lalab salad, while the flower buds are sautéed and stir-fried with chillies and green tomatoes as Minahasan papaya flower vegetable dish. Papayas have a relatively high amount of pectin, which can be used to make jellies. The smell of ripe, fresh papaya flesh can strike some people as unpleasant.

The black seeds of the papaya are edible and have a sharp, spicy taste. They are sometimes ground and used as a substitute for black pepper.

In some parts of Asia, the young leaves of the papaya are steamed and eaten like spinach.

Traditional medicine[edit]

In some parts of the world, papaya leaves are made into tea as a treatment for malaria.[18] Antimalarial and antiplasmodial activity has been noted in some preparations of the plant,[18] but the mechanism is not understood and no treatment method based on these results has been scientifically proven.[18]

In belief that it can raise platelet levels in blood, papaya may be used as a medicine for dengue fever.[19] Papaya is marketed in tablet form to remedy digestive problems.[citation needed]

Papain is also applied topically for the treatment of cuts, rashes, stings and burns.[citation needed] Papain ointment is commonly made from fermented papaya flesh, and is applied as a gel-like paste. Harrison Ford was treated for a ruptured disc incurred during filming of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom by papain injections.[20]

Women in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and other countries have long used green papaya as an herbal medicine for contraception and abortion.[citation needed] Enslaved women in the West Indies were noted for consuming papaya to prevent pregnancies and thus preventing their children from being born into slavery.[21]

Preliminary research[edit]

Preliminary research in animals has provided evidence for the potential contraceptive and abortifacient capability of papaya. Laboratory studies have also shown that papaya seeds have contraceptive effects in adult male langur monkeys, and possibly in adult male humans.[22] Unripe papaya is especially effective in large amounts or high doses. Ripe papaya is not teratogenic and will not cause miscarriage in small amounts. Phytochemicals in papaya may suppress the effects of progesterone.[23]

Other preliminary research indicates alternate possible effects which remain to be further studied. Papaya juice has an in vitro antiproliferative effect on liver cancer cells, possibly due to lycopene[24] or immune system stimulation.[25] Papaya seeds might contain antibacterial properties against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus or Salmonella typhi.[26] Papaya seed extract may have effects in toxicity-induced kidney failure.[27]

Allergies and side effects[edit]

Papaya is frequently used as a hair conditioner, but should be used in small amounts. Papaya releases a latex fluid when not quite ripe, which can cause irritation and provoke allergic reaction in some people.

The latex concentration of unripe papayas is speculated to cause uterine contractions, which may lead to a miscarriage. Papaya seed extracts in large doses have a contraceptive effect on rats and monkeys, but in small doses have no effect on the unborn animals.

Excessive consumption of papaya can cause carotenemia, the yellowing of soles and palms, which is otherwise harmless. However, a very large dose would need to be consumed; papaya contains about 6% of the level of beta carotene found in carrots (the most common cause of carotenemia).[28]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Carica papaya was originally described and published in Species Plantarum 2:1036. 1753. GRIN (9 May 2011). "Carica papaya information from NPGS/GRIN". Taxonomy for Plants. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland: USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Retrieved 10 December 2010. 
  2. ^ "Papaya". 1987. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Definition of papaya in Oxford Dictionaries (British & World English)". Retrieved 2013-06-15. 
  5. ^ "Merriam-Webster Online: ''pawpaw''". 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2013-06-15. 
  6. ^ Delbridge, A., and J. R. L. Bernard. 1988 The Macquarie Concise Dictionary. The Macquarie Library: Sydney.
  7. ^ "An Overview of Global Papaya Production, Trade, and Consumption". Electronic Data Information Source, University of Florida. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  8. ^ Boning, Charles R. (2006). Florida's Best Fruiting Plants: Native and Exotic Trees, Shrubs, and Vines. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. pp. 166–167. 
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ "Papaya Vs Papaw". News (15 April 2005). Horticulture Australia. Retrieved 22 July 2011. 
  11. ^ Sagon, Candy (13 October 2004). "Maradol Papaya". Market Watch (13 Oct 2004) (The Washington Post). Retrieved 21 July 2011. 
  12. ^ "Euphytica, Volume 181, Number 2". SpringerLink. doi:10.1007/s10681-011-0388-z. Retrieved 2012-06-29. 
  13. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-06-15. 
  14. ^ Ronald, Pamela and McWilliams, James (14 May 2010) Genetically Engineered Distortions The New York Times, accessed 1 October 2012
  15. ^
  16. ^ Danielone, a phytoalexin from papaya fruit. Echeverri F., Torres F., Quinones W., Cardona G., Archbold R., Roldan J., Brito I., Luis J.G., and LahlouU E.-H., Phytochemistry, 1997, vol. 44, no2, pp. 255-256, INIST:2558881
  17. ^ Author: Natty Netsuwan. "Green Papaya Salad Recipe". Retrieved 2013-06-15. 
  18. ^ a b c Titanji, V.P.; Zofou, D.; Ngemenya, M.N. (2008). "The Antimalarial Potential of Medicinal Plants Used for the Treatment of Malaria in Cameroonian Folk Medicine". African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines 5 (3): 302–321. PMC 2816552. PMID 20161952. 
  19. ^ "Re:Papaya leaves for speedy rise of platelet count in Dengue". BMJ. Retrieved 2013-06-15. 
  20. ^ Entry on Harrison Ford's back treatment.
  21. ^ Morton, J.F. (1987). Papaya. In: Fruits of warm climates.. pp. 336–346. 
  22. ^ Lohiya, N. K.; B. Manivannan, P. K. Mishra, N. Pathak, S. Sriram, S. S. Bhande, and S. Panneerdoss (March 2002). "Chloroform extract of Carica papaya seeds induces long-term reversible azoospermia in langur monkey". Asian Journal of Andrology 4 (1): 17–26. PMID 11907624. Retrieved 2006-11-18. 
  23. ^ Oderinde, O; Noronha, C; Oremosu, A; Kusemiju, T; Okanlawon, OA (2002). "Abortifacient properties of Carica papaya (Linn) seeds in female Sprague-Dawley rats". Niger Postgrad Medical Journal 9 (2): 95–8. PMID 12163882. 
  24. ^ Rahmat, Asmah et al.. "Antiproliferative activity of pure lycopene compared to both extracted lycopene and juices from watermelon (Citrullus vulgaris) and papaya (Carica papaya) on human breast and liver cancer cell lines". Retrieved 9 May 2009. 
  25. ^ "Papaya extract thwarts growth of cancer cells in lab tests". Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  26. ^ "The in vitro assessment of antibacterial effect of papaya seed extract against bacterial pathogens isolated from urine, wound and stool.". Retrieved 14 October 2009. 
  27. ^ "Nephroprotective activities of the aqueous seed extract of Carica papaya Linn. in carbon tetrachloride induced renal injured Wistar rats: a dose- and time-dependent study". Retrieved 19 November 2009. 
  28. ^ "Search the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference". Retrieved 2010-08-18. 
  29. ^ Berrin, Katherine & Larco Museum. The Spirit of Ancient Peru:Treasures from the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997.

External links[edit]