The papaya is the fruit of the plant Carica papaya, in the genus Carica . It is native to the tropics of the Americas, and was cultivated in Mexico several centuries before the emergence of the Mesoamerican classic cultures. The Spanish brought the plant to the Philippines and eventually spread throughout South-East Asia.
As cultivation dates from prehistoric times, there are dozens of varieties. Some are tiny while others are the size of a watermelon.
The papaya tree bears only either male or female flowers with the female tree producing the fruits. Consequently, the male tree must be close by to pollinate the female flowers.
The commercially grown plant is properly a large herb growing at the rate of 1.8-3 m the first year and reaching 4-6 m in height. The fruit is melon-like, oval to nearly round, somewhat pyriform, or elongated club-shaped, 15-50 cm long and 10-20 cm thick; weighing up to 9 kg. The skin is thin like those of the watermelon and turns from green to yellow and orange as the fruit ripens.
The yellow till orange and somethins even red fruit flesh is juicy, sweetish and somewhat like a cantaloupe in flavor. Ripe flesh is commonly made into sauce for shortcake or ice cream sundaes, or is added to ice cream just before freezing; or is cooked in pie, pickled, or preserved as marmalade or jam. Papaya and pineapple cubes, covered with sugar sirup, may be quick-frozen for later serving as dessert. The papaya is regarded as a fair source of iron and calcium; a good source of vitamins A, B and G and an excellent source of vitamin C (ascorbic acid).
For processing, the papaya is cut overlength in four, then the seeds are removed, after which the quarts are cut into dices of approx. 10 x 10 x 10 mm, cubes or as balls.