|CARICA PAPAYA - Papaya, (Paw Paw Australia), Tree Melon |
Carica is a genus of about 20 species of evergreen trees native to tropical America. They all produce a acrid milky sap. Although described as a tree, the plant is a large herb or soft-wood tree, like the banana. Carica papaya contains an enzyme known as papain, present in the fruit, stem and leaves. The milky juice is extracted, dried and used as chewing gum, medicine (digestion problems), toothpaste and meat tenderizers. (Meat can be tenderized by wrapping it in a bruised papaya leaf before it is cooked.) The fruit size varies from 4 to 20" and from 2 to 20 pounds. The flesh is soft and juicy, orange-yellow or salmon pink, surrounding a cavity containing numerous brown-black pea-size seeds which can be used as a spice (some people chew them). Unripe papaya can be cooked as a vegetable.