Get to Know: Green Papaya
Welcome to our Mae Jum blog article about green papaya, everything you'll need to know about this fruit will be right here! While green papaya may seem a world apart from the sweet orange tropical papaya fruit you may be more familiar with, green papayas are not a different variety of papaya. The common form of papaya is harvested when it's slightly ripened and sold when its flesh is orange-red and ready to eat, but when in its unripened form as a hard fruit, this is what we refer to as young or green papaya.
What is Green Papaya?
This fruit grows on a tree that reaches a height of about 12 feet and bears the scientific name Carica papaya. Common papaya is picked when its flesh is turning orange-red and is primarily grown in Hawaii, although it is also now cultivated in Thailand and parts of Japan. The Green papaya fruit weighs on average 650g but can reach up to 1kg and beyond.
Green papayas are pear-shaped with a true green outer peel and a pale translucent yellow-green flesh that bears a pocket of white seeds in its central core. The white seeds later turn black when ripe. The light flesh of green papaya has a neutral flavour with a crunchy carrot-like texture. Papayas in their young form are better used as a vegetable and are perfect to use in savoury salads such as Som Tam (ส้มตำ).
How to Prepare and Cook with Green Papaya?
Even though it’s considered a fruit, it’s not sweet at all in its unripened state. Peel the skin using a standard vegetable peeler (the skin is quite soft) to reveal the light and pale flesh. You might see the peel weep a white liquid, it's just the papayas natural latex, simply wipe it off and continue. The flesh and seeds of this fruit can be consumed, and the seeds have a slightly peppery flavour; they can be used as a spice if the seeds are dried and ground up.
To shred young papaya, you should cut papaya in half and remove the seeds using a spoon. Then you can shred using either a julienning shredder or cheese grater. Alternatively, in Thailand, the traditional method of shredding is using only a knife. You can do this by first peeling the outer layer and hold the papaya in one hand, using a sharp knife in the other hand, begin to chop down into the flesh many times to make lots of long cuts. Then thinly slice off the top layer multiple times into a bowl and continue to do so until all of the papayas are shredded as demonstrated in the image below. You will be left with the seeds in the centre still attached to the core pocket.
When shredded, the green papaya makes an excellent carrier of flavour from the dressing. For the famous Thai salad Som Tam, the dressing flavours will have the sweetness from palm sugar, salty savouriness from the fish sauce and dried shrimp, fresh tang from the lime, and fiery from a generous amount of chilli. Please check out our Som Tam recipe for the full ingredient list and step by step method!
Where to Buy and Store Green Papaya?
Green papaya is a speciality ingredient in the UK and it’s rare to see them stock in the supermarkets. You would be able to find it at some Asian grocery stores in the fresh produce section, the larger the store the more likely for the store to stock a variety of fresh goods. A good price to buy would be between £5 - 7 (£9 - 10 per KG). When you’re choosing green papaya, it’s important that you get one that is very green. Look for ones with smooth uniformly vibrant green skin that don’t give when pressed with your thumb.
If the skin has blotchy areas or soft spots, it could be a sign of old age or poor storage. If it‘s a pale green or has a hint of yellow on the skin, chances are it’s already started to ripen. You can find these types of papayas in Waitrose that are slightly ripe, so it's best to use them immediately to make the most of the crunchy texture before it goes soft. Once home, store it in a plastic produce bag in the fridge. If you plan to keep it for longer than 3 or 4 days, I would suggest wrapping a paper towel around the fruit to absorb any extra moisture.
If you really can’t find or purchase at a particular time, the best substitute for green papaya is green mango - another unripened fruit. Can be used in the same way in Thai cuisine but it's also an ingredient that would need to be sourced from an Asian store. In terms of readily accessible vegetables, nothing is quite the same as green papaya. However, from experience, using English cucumber is quite good in terms of a neutral flavour, if you de-seed the middle and use the firmer outer flesh. Also, swede is a great alternative too, the colour and crunchy texture match well.
Health Benefits of Green Papaya
Green papaya has an excellent nutrient profile, including high levels of vitamin C, E, A, and folate, as well as magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, and other antioxidants. Skin Care With high concentrations of vitamin E, amino acids, and vitamin C, this unusual fruit is great for anti-ageing, as it can help prevent wrinkles, blemishes, and age spots as we age, as well as treat inflammation and irritation.
The fibre content in green papayas is impressive, to say the least, which can help optimize digestion, increase feelings of fullness, improve nutrient uptake, and balance the pH balance of the stomach. Young papaya can also help boost your immune system as a single serving of this fruit has more than 70% of your daily requirement for vitamin C, which stimulates the production of white blood cells.
If you enjoyed reading our ‘get to know: green peppercorn’ blog post, please give this blog a star rating and comment if you have cooked with this ingredient before or would like to give it a go in the near future! Check out our blog for more interesting articles like this and subscribe for new recipes and posts. Always stay connected and follow us on Instagram and Facebook!