Wally Richards: Paw Paw – nature’s super fruit

For fun and health reasons try germinating some Paw Paw seeds.

Paw Paw fruit  are also known as Papaya, particuarly in the Philippines and the majority of New Zealand’s Paw Paw imports come from there, where the trees grow wild.

A while back a gardener contacted me in regards to his Paw Paws that he was growing in Wellington in containers, indoors, in front of a sunny window. From pictures, the plants appeared to be doing ok in these conditions, except he was over watering for the time of the year. I suggested that the light situation also was not so good indoors and they should be getting more light by been outside and protected.   I was told that they flowered and produced fruit alright which surprised me.

As I enjoy eating paw paws, I often buy one or two when they are not too expensive and I am always taken back by the number of round black seeds in the centre of the fruit.

Thinking back to the chap in Wellington I decided a few weeks ago to take a few of the seeds and place them in a dish to dry out. After a couple of weeks they had dried down to about half their size and were ready to sow. I placed the seeds into seedling trays with compost then onto the heat pad which I use for germinating more difficult seeds. I sprayed (misted) the growing medium every day and now I have been rewarded with a strike of about half a dozen Paw Paw plants.

As soon as they germinated and as the first embryo leaves were forming, I took them out to my glasshouse so they would receive maximum light. You never want to let any freshly germinated plants stretch for light as you will likely lose them. So now they are still in their seedling trays and when the first true leaves are formed I will transplant them into small pots and grow them on individually. Maybe I can eventually get them to fruit, who knows and its a lot of fun having a go.

You might like to try doing the same and not only with paw paw but with any fruit you buy including tomatoes, capsicum, peppers, melon etc the seeds are free with the fruit and its a lot of satisfaction growing plants from seed.

Paw paw or papaya are very low in calories (just 39 cal/100 g) and contain no cholesterol; but are a rich source of phyto-nutrients, minerals and vitamins. Papayas contain soft, easily digestible pulp/flesh with good amount of soluble dietary fiber that helps to have normal bowel movements; thereby reducing constipation.

Fresh, ripe fruit is one of the fruit with highest vitamin-C content (provides about 103% of DRA, more than in oranges, or lemons). Research studies have shown that vitamin C has many important functions like free radicals scavenging, immune booster and anti-inflammatory actions.  It is also an excellent source of Vitamin-A (provides 1094 IU/100 g ) and flavonoids like beta carotenes, lutein, zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthins. Vitamin A is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin and is essential for vision. These compounds are known to have antioxidant properties; help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play role in aging and various disease processes. Consumption of natural fruits rich in carotenes known to protect body from lung and oral cavity cancers.
Papaya fruit is also rich in many essential B-complex vitamins such as Folic acid, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin, and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential in the sense that body requires them from external sources to replenish and play vital role in metabolism.

Fresh papaya also contains good amount of potassium (257 mg per 100 g) and calcium. Potassium in an important component of cell and body fluids and helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure countering effects of sodium.
Papaya has been proven to be a natural remedy for many ailments. In traditional medicine, papaya seeds are anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic, and analgesic, and they are used to treat stomach-ache and ringworm infections.

Its well worth buying papaya for both the heath aspects and the lovely flavour when the fruit is ripe which means Papaya  skin slightly turning to yellow and skin slightly yielding to touch.

Unripe fruits can be kept at room temperature for few days but ripen ones should be stored in the refrigerator. Bring back the fruit to normal temperature when it is to be eaten to get their natural taste and flavour. Wash papaya fruit thoroughly in cold running water to remove dust and any pesticide residues. Skin is bitter in taste and inedible. Remove skin with “peeling knife”, cut the fruit longitudinally in to two equal halves. Gently remove seeds and thin slimy layer loosely adhering to the flesh. Cut the fruit longitudinally like melon or cut into small cubes.

Ripe papaya can be safely used by pregnant women. Unripe green papaya should be avoided in pregnant women as it contains lot of papain, a proteolytic enzyme that used commercially to tenderize meat. Unripe papaya fruit, seeds, latex, and leaves also contain carpaine, an alkaloid which could be dangerous when eaten in high doses. Unripe papaya, however can be used safely as a cooked vegetable.  Plants grown from seed can produce both male and female plants which the males never fruit but the females apparently are self fertile.
They need to be protected against adverse weather and frosts and best grown in containers so they can be moved before winter. Keep the mix on the dry side in winter.

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