Papaya passion

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The nutritious papaya is a wonderful salad ingredient

Growing up in India, I once heard a story about how papad manufacturers cut corners – they use dried papaya seeds in place of black peppercorns. Ew.

Imagine my surprise when during a previous tour of the Tropical Fruit World near the Gold Coast, the tour guide told us of a wonderful use for papaya seeds – dry them and put them in your pepper mill, he said. (So the Marwari papad factories were fair dinkum, all this time!)

Papayas are currently in season and you could try making your own peppercorns (you’ll have to use a dehydrator apparently, whatever that is). If you can’t be bothered, you could just eat the fruit.

Personally, I think papayas (or pawpaws as they are called here) are best eaten fresh, and by themselves, because mixing them with other (sweeter) fruits can render them somewhat bland. But they are great in smoothies, or as I discovered recently, in salads and salsas.

Papayas are very high in nutrition. As a good source of fibre, they are best known as an aid in digestion, thanks to a proteolytic enzyme called papain. But did you know they also have 33% more vitamin C and 50% more potassium than oranges? They also have folate, vitamins A and E, and eye-saving carotenoids and lycopene (such as beta-carotene which gives it the orange colour).

The papaya plant is actually a large herb – and the fruit is actually a berry. Apparently it is easy to grow, because its seeds germinate very easily. (Anyone want to try this? Bury the seeds from a fully ripe fruit under some good composted soil. In warm weather, they should be sprouting in a week. Tell me how you go!)


Pawpaw Salad with Chicken
500g chicken breast fillets
1 litre chicken stock
Salt to taste
Red chilli powder to taste
1 medium pawpaw, peeled and diced
1/3 cup fresh coriander leaves
4 green shallots, sliced
50g snow pea sprouts
1 red capsicum

For dressing:
1 lime, juiced
60mls (1/4 cup) peanut oil
2 small fresh red chillies, deseeded, finely chopped
1 tbs brown sugar

Place chicken fillets in a frying pan. Pour chicken stock over. Cover and poach the chicken over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until cooked through.

Cool, and then cut into cubes. Put into a deep bowl and add pawpaw, snow peas, capsicum, coriander and green shallots

Meanwhile, combine ingredients for dressing in a screw-top jar. Shake until well combined.

Pour the dressing over the salad, season with salt and red chilli powder, and toss.

Pawpaw Salsa
½  red capsicum, deseeded, coarsely chopped
½  green capsicum, deseeded, coarsely chopped
½ medium pawpaw, diced
1 small Spanish onion, finely chopped
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
(1/3 cup) fresh lime juice
(1/4 cup) pineapple juice
Fresh coriander leaves, coarsely chopped
Salt to taste

Red chilli powder or black pepper to taste

Place the red and green capsicum, pawpaw, onion, chilli, garlic, lime juice, pineapple juice and coriander in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and chilli powder or pepper. Serve immediately.

Great as a barbecue side dish.

Pawpaw Salad with Spinach and Walnut
150 gm packet baby spinach leaves
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
½  medium pawpaw, peeled, seeded and sliced
1 avocado, stoned, peeled and sliced
1 Spanish onion, thinly sliced
1/3  cup walnuts, chopped

For dressing:
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp brown sugar

Combine in a deep bowl spinach, tomatoes, pawpaw, avocado, onion and walnuts.

Make dressing by shaking ingredients in a screw-top jar. Pour over salad and toss gently.

Prawn Salad with Papaya
1 medium pawpaw, peeled, seeded, sliced into wedges
1kg cooked medium prawns, peeled, deveined, tails intact
2 avocados, peeled, sliced into wedges
¼ small iceberg lettuce, sliced into thin wedges
1/3 cup coriander leaves
Lime wedges, to serve

For dressing:
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup light olive oil
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tsp fish sauce

This salad looks great served in small glasses. Arrange avocado, papaya, lettuce, prawns and coriander in glasses. Make dressing by whisking all ingredients together.

Drizzle salad with dressing, and stick a lime wedge on side of glass before serving.

Fruit Juice with Pawpaw
1 cup pawpaw cubes
½ cup carrot cubes
1 cup orange juice
1 cup iced water
1 tbsp lime juice

Blend together papaya, carrots, orange juice and iced water. Pour into glass, add lime juice over and stir.

For a bit of fizz, you could add 50 ml lemonade into this juice.

Add any other fruit of choice, such as bananas, instead of carrots.

Pawpaw Smoothie 1
½ medium-sized ripe pawpaw, peeled, seeded and diced
½ cup orange juice
½ cup vanilla yogurt
1 tbsp mango jam

Blend all ingredients together until smooth.

Pawpaw Smoothie 2
1 pawpaw, peeled, seeded and diced
1 banana, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
10 ice cubes

Blend together papaya, banana, strawberries, milk, sugar, and ice cubes until smooth.

Fruity Breakfast Shake
½ cup skim milk
½ cup natural yogurt
½ cup fresh strawberries
¾ cup pawpaw, chopped
1 tbsp honey
1/3  cup crushed ice

Blend together skim milk, yogurt, strawberries, papaya and honey. With the blender running, add ice cubes, one at a time through the opening in lid. Blend till smooth. Pour into tall glasses; serve immediately.

Pawpaw Dressing for Salads
¾ cup ripe pawpaw cubes
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 shallot, finely chopped
Salt to taste

Puree papaya in a blender. Add all remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour over leafy green salad and toss through

Tropical Fruit Salad
1 cup pineapple pieces
1 cup melon or mango pieces
1 cup pawpaw pieces
2 cups vanilla yogurt
2 tbsp honey
1 cup strawberries
Mint leaves for garnish

Try making this salad inside a pineapple shell. Spread 1 cup yogurt at the base.

Toss through all fruit together in a separate bowl, and lay them out on yogurt base inside pineapple shell. Mix honey into remaining yogurt and pour over the fruit. Garnish with mint leaves.

Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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