The Papaya plants are near the Banana plant in the Bayside garden. There is an Hawaiian and Mexican variety. The Papaya is a large tree-like plant, with a single stem growing from 5 to 10 metres (16 to 33 ft) tall. The fruit sometimes used to be referred to as a "tree melon." In Australia it is called Papaw or Paw Paw.
Unripe, green papaya fruit and the leaves of the papaya tree contain an enzyme called papain. Papain has been used as a natural meat tenderizer for thousands of years and today is an ingredient in many commercial meat tenderizers.
Its tenderizing properties are also being applied to the human body. Injections of papain enzyme are given to treat herniated discs. When Harrison Ford suffered a ruptured disc on the set of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, he was treated with papain injections.
The fruit is ripe when it will give slightly when pressed gently (like a ripe avocado or a bit softer) and its skin has attained an amber to orange hue. First wash the papaya. Then cut it in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. You can spoon them out or hold the papaya in one hand and slide the seeds out with the spoon. The seeds of the fruit resemble peppercorns and are edible. They can be ground up and used as a substitute for black pepper. You can discard the seeds, or save them to use in a salad dressing or for garnish.
At this point, you could scoop out the papaya with a spoon and eat it right away. Or you could use a melon baler to remove the fruit and put it on a plate. For slices, you should remove the skin. Turn the papaya on its side and just peel the skin down with a paring knife. You can also cut off the ends, stand up the papaya, and slice downward. Go back and remove any spots you missed.
If you enjoy Papaya feel free to pick them when they are ripe. I like to make Papaya pancakes but papayas can be eaten at any time of day and are an excellent source of Vitamin C. A small papaya contains about 300% of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin C.