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by Leilehua Yuen         



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Papayas / Papaw / Pawpaw / He`i

     Papayas, known in Hawaiian as he`i, are a melonlike fruit of a tree-sized herb, Carica papaya, which belongs to the papaw family. Caricaceae are found throughout tropical areas. Wild trees usually grow to about two meters. Cultivated papaya trees can grow over twice that height. Trees are either male or female. The female blossoms grow directly off the branchless trunks.Male blossoms grow from a long stem. Papayas generally will produce fruit by the end of their first year.
     The papaya is a favorite breakfast food in tropical countries. It is somewhat melon like in flavor and texture. The seeds are peppery and used in flavoring garnishes and sauces. Green fruits are used as a cooked vegetable, like squash. 
     The sap of the papaya tree, leaves, and green fruit contain papain, a digestive enzyme. They are used in tenderizing meat.
     The name "papaw" is sometimes applied to the papaya, but it is more correctly applied to the North American Asimina triloba, a member of the Custard Apple family, the juice and fruit of which are also used to tenderize meat. 

     At left, Leilehua harvests papaya in the front yard of her Hilo home.

     Perhaps this papaya tree growing in the back yard at Leilehua's Hilo, Hawai`i home in 1972 is its great grandparent.

Green Papaya Meat Tenderizer

1 green papaya
beef, pork, or game, up to 5 lbs

Peel the papaya and remove the seeds. Grate into a bowl. lomi lomi (massage) the grated papaya and its juice into the meat. Let sit at least one hour. To tenderize the meat more deeply, make many small cuts throughout it with a sharp fork or a small knife.

     Another use for green papayas is as a vegetable in soups. You can easily substitute green papaya for squash, potatoes, or melon in most soup and stew recipes.



Easy Papaya Seed Dressing

2 tablespoons papaya seeds
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

     Toss the ingredients in a blender and run it until they are thoroughly mixed.