Why Papaya is More Than a Colorful Dessert

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Papaya is often a favorite "filler" fruit. If you prepare fruit salad and wonder what else to put in or feel that it lacks something brightly colored, you add in papaya chunks. You may also want to put some thick consistency to your milk or fruit sauce so you add in slices of papaya. I remember loving a natural fruit salad served to us (no cream, milk, or sugar) that tasted strangely "creamy." Then I found out it had overripe papaya sauce in it.

I wonder why there still isn't any papaya flavored ice cream?

Papaya is definitely tropical, abundantly growing in the Philippines and neighboring Asian countries like Malaysia, Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka. Go to any province in the Philippines and you're sure to find papaya trees, even in fruit. When I was young, my friends and I would pick raw, green papaya and slice them up and soak them in vinegar and salt. We ate that as some kind of a pickle-snack as we told each other stories under some shaded tree after classes.

Ripe papaya is good as both dessert and cooking ingredient. It is made into a sauce, pickle, or preserved as a fruit jam or marmalade. Filipinos also love mixing it in soup menus like Tinola or nilaga. It is rich in Vitamins A and C, as well as antioxidants, especially the seeds which are also potential ingredients of nutraceuticals. Papaya has immuno-stimulating properties and the seeds can be used in treating gastrointestinal infections and even have anthelmintic activity.

Experts say the fruit with its seeds have bacteriostatic activities that aid intestinal pathogens while papaya leaves are said to relieve asthmatic symptoms, amoebic dysentery, and even fever. The leaf extract has vasodilation benefits and together with the antioxidant found there is said to help reduce heart problems. The papaya aqueous extract is believed to help heal burns as it did in a test involving rats that suffered burns.

Finally, ripe papaya is rich in dietary fibers and is a favorite delicious remedy for constipation in the Philippines. Here's a tip--choose one that is very soft to the touch but not too overripe as to be rotten. This has lots of fibers (aside from Vitamins A and C--yellow fruits are Vitamin A fruits, remember?) and is very good for smooth bowel management.

In the Philippines, you get a choice between oblong or small rounded papaya varieties. The small and rounded type is usually sweeter and richer in flavor. Papayas in this country also come in either yellow insides or red insides, with seeds or seedless. As for me, among herbs and plants in the Philippines and Asia that bear edible fruits, I prefer those with seeds.

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