What Is Papaya?
Papaya is a fruit that belongs to the Carica genus. It grows on single stalk trees that reach between 16 feet and 33 feet in height. Leaves, which grow between 20 and 28 inches, can be found at the top of the tree only. The fruit itself is large with some specimens reaching up to 17.7 inches in length. When ripe, the outside of the papaya is a yellowish-orange color. Its flesh is anywhere from yellow to deep orangish-red. This plant is native to Central America and the northern regions of South America. Today, it also grows naturally in Florida, the Caribbean islands, and several African countries. Additionally, it is grown commercially in tropical countries around the world.
Uses Of Papaya
Papaya provides significant amounts of vitamin C and folate. Typically, this fruit is consumed when ripe, soft, and sweet. It is eaten in fruit salads, with yogurt, or blended as juice. Unripe papaya is used in cooking, particularly curry and stew dishes. Because it has a high pectin content, papaya is also prepared as jelly, jam, and preserves. The inside of this fruit is filled with multiple small, black seeds. These seeds are sometimes used as a substitute for black pepper due to their spicy and savory flavor. Unripe papaya is also high in papain, which is used to tenderize meat. Some cultures use its leaves in traditional medicine as a cure for malaria, although this use is not supported scientifically.
Cultivation Of Papaya
The papaya tree matures rapidly and produces fruit within three years. It presents in 3 different sexes: male, female, and hermaphrodite. The male tree only produces pollen. The female tree must be pollinated to produce edible fruit. The hermaphrodite can pollinate itself, which makes it popular for commercial use. If exposed to extremely cold temperatures, the papaya cannot produce fruit. It also requires sandy, well-draining soil. Papaya is the 4th most commonly produced fruit in the world, after bananas, oranges, and mangoes. Because of its popularity and increased demand, papaya exports have become important to many developing economies.
Top Papaya Producing Countries
The top papaya producing country in the world is India. This country produces 5.5 million tons of papaya annually, a number that has been continuously increasing over the last few years. To increase production, India has dedicated larger tracts of land to papaya cultivation over a number of years. For example, from 1991 to 2001 acreage for papaya production increased by 63%. Papaya cultivation is concentrated in the following states: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Orissa, and West Bengal (among others).
Brazil comes in second place for papaya production with 1.6 million tons cultivated annually. In 2013, Brazil and India together provided 57% of the global papaya supply. Although one of the top producers in the world, papaya cultivation in Brazil has been decreasing over the last few years. This is mainly due to a decrease in available land, a 16.1% loss in 2013, for example. Farmers are pulling out of the papaya business because of high production costs, particularly in labor wages.
Indonesia is the third largest papaya producer in the world. This country produces around 900,000 tons of papaya every year. This amount is nearly 7% of the global supply. Cultivation in Indonesia has fluctuated from year to year but has increased significantly since 2010.
Other top papaya producing countries can be seen in the chart published below.