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Carica papaya: Tropical tenderizer

Carica papaya, also known as the tree melon, is a tall, tree-like plant whose leaves form a sheaf at the top of its generally straight stem. The large, melon-like papaya fruit grow just beneath the base of the leaves. In botanical terms, these fruit are large, multi-seeded berries, and can weigh as much as 7 kilograms.

Though originating in Central America, the papaya is now cultivated in tropical regions around the world. It was introduced to Asia in the 16th century by Spanish and Portuguese sailors and spread rapidly. The name „papaya“ comes from the Carib language of the Antilles.

Papayas are 90% water, contain lots of provitamin A, and have a pleasant, mild taste. They’re usually eaten raw, but since they have relatively little acid, they taste even better when sprinkled with a little lemon juice.

The latex found in all parts of the plant also has an important commercial use. It contains an enzyme called papain that breaks down protein. It’s used medically to aid digestion and to treat back injuries, as well as to tenderize tough meat. Papain also plays a role in the textile industry, where it is used to prevent protein-containing animal fibers like silk or wool from tangling.

Audio file download
Carica papaya: Tropical tenderizer (MP3, 634 KB)

Audio production and copyright: Soundgarden Audioguidance GmbH
Text: Ehrentraud Bayer, Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg

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