Deliciously sweet with a soft, butter-like consistency, it’s no wonder that Christopher Columbus called the papaya the “fruit of the angels”.
Bright colorful mountains of green papaya salad, laden with fresh tomato, garden cucumber and green beans and topped with crispy local breadfruit, peanuts and herbs, is one of our favourite seasonal salads.
Papaya (referred to as pawpaw in Australia) is native to southern Mexico and Central America and is now cultivated in many tropical regions. You could be mistaken for thinking papaya is grown on a tree, however it’s really a large herb with a tall barkless and branchless trunk crowned by a shock of large leaves.
Green papaya is the unripe fruit and contains an enzyme called papain that helps digest proteins and is used as a natural meat tenderiser. Papaya seeds have a peppery taste and are a great substitute for black peppercorns.
Papaya is a rich source of vitamin C and contains beta-carotene, minerals and dietary fibre. If kale no longer does the trick to cleanse you out, it might be time to add this superfood, super-fruit to your repertoire thanks to its fibre content and natural laxative abilities, as well as enzymes that help with balancing stomach acid for healthy digestion.
Though very different in taste, texture, and appearance, green and orange papaya are actually the same fruit picked at different stages of development. The tender, creamy, orange-fleshed papaya is harvested when fully mature. It’s sweet, “melon-y” and even somewhat “cheesy.” Because it is very low in acid, it is often spritzed with lime juice to provide balance. Immature green papaya has crisp white flesh with subtle flavour. It is prized mostly for its crunch and used primarily as a base for salads. Green papaya is “clean-tasting” and “like cucumber or jicama”; in fact jicama (Mexican turnip) and seeded cucumber make good substitutes if green papaya is unavailable.
GREEN PAPAYA SALAD
2 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ teaspoon salt
2 fresh bird’s eye chili, sliced
½ teaspoon raw sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce, to taste
2 cups julienned peeled green (unripe) papaya
2 cups julienned peeled cucumber
1 cups julienned peeled carrots
2 plum tomatoes
8 grape tomatoes, coarsely chopped
½ pound long beans, trimmed
½ cup loosely packed fresh Thai basil leaves
½ cup loosely packed fresh Vietnamese mint (rau ram) leaves
½ cup loosely packed fresh coriander leaves
breadfruit, sliced thinly and fried
1 tablespoon dry-roasted peanuts, for garnish
Mix all dressing ingredients together. Combine prepared salad produce, top with the dressing and sprinkle with a mixture of the herbs, breadfruit strips and nuts.