Yes, you can eat green papaya raw. Green papaya is simply the unripe version of the ripe papaya fruit. It has a mild taste and crunchy texture that works well raw in salads, salsa, and other dishes. Green papaya contains papain, an enzyme with health benefits, and is a good source of nutrients like vitamins C and A, potassium, and fiber. People around the world eat green papaya raw in cuisine. As with any new food, introduce it slowly and watch for allergic reactions.
What is green papaya?
Green papaya refers to unripe, green papaya fruit. Papaya is a tropical fruit that grows on the papaya tree. When a papaya is allowed to ripen fully on the tree, it turns yellow-orange and develops its familiar sweet, musky flavor. Green papayas are unripe papayas that are harvested early, before the flesh has ripened and softened.
The skin of green papaya is firm and green. The flesh inside is very firm and crunchy in texture, with a mild, slightly tart flavor. Green papayas do not taste very sweet. As a papaya continues to ripen, its flesh softens and becomes sweeter tasting.
Here are the nutrition facts for 1 cup of raw green papaya cubes (140 grams):
|Vitamin C||117% DV|
|Vitamin A||10% DV|
Green papaya is very low in calories and fat. It provides a good amount of fiber. It is an excellent source of vitamin C, providing over 100% of the daily value in just 1 cup. It also contains vitamin A, potassium, and a small amount of calcium.
Eating green papaya raw offers several health benefits:
Green papayas contain the enzyme papain. This is found in the milky sap from the papaya skin and flesh. Papain aids digestion by helping to break down proteins. Some research shows it may benefit chronic conditions involving bloating, abdominal pain, and irregularity.
Papaya is very high in vitamin C. Consuming foods rich in vitamin C helps support a healthy immune system. One cup of green papaya cubes provides over 100% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin C.
Green papaya contains zeaxanthin and lutein, two antioxidants that are important for eye health. Getting enough of these nutrients may lower the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
Some early research indicates that papain may have anti-inflammatory effects in the body. This could help reduce inflammation involved in some diseases. However, more studies are needed on papaya and inflammation.
Skin and hair
The nutrients in green papaya, like vitamins A and C, may benefit the skin and hair. Some people apply green papaya directly to the skin to reduce acne, inflammation, and exfoliate. Consuming it may also have skin and hair benefits from the inside.
Using green papaya
The flesh of green papaya can be consumed raw. It has a very firm, crunchy texture similar to raw cabbage or cucumber. Here are some ways to eat green papaya raw:
Thinly slice or shred green papaya and add it to salads. It pairs well with spicy dressing or vinaigrettes. Try combining it with spinach, chicken, bell peppers, bean sprouts, and fresh herbs.
Chop green papaya into a fresh salsa along with ingredients like tomato, onion, chiles, lime juice, cilantro, and avocado. Enjoy with tortilla chips.
Add some green papaya cubes to tropical smoothies. Blend it with pineapple, mango, banana, coconut milk, lime, and ice.
Use green papaya slices or shreds to wrap tuna or chicken salad. Wrap them like you would lettuce leaves.
Julienne or shred green papaya and add to fresh spring rolls with rice noodles, shrimp, mint, and lettuce.
Shred green papaya and stir together with garlic, citrus juice, spices, and herbs to make a tangy chutney-style condiment.
Add sliced green papaya at the end of cooking Asian stir fries. Toss with the other ingredients to slightly soften and absorb flavors.
Add cubed green papaya to Thai or Indian curries. It works well in vegetable, chicken, and fish curries.
Make a noodle salad with green papaya shreds or spirals, herbs, protein, crunchy vegetables, and a peanut dressing.
Pickle sliced green papaya with rice vinegar, salt, garlic, and chiles. Use in place of cucumber pickles.
Selecting green papaya
When shopping for green papaya, look for fruit that is bright green and firm. Avoid papayas with soft spots or brown discolorations, as this indicates over-ripeness. Green papayas should feel very hard, like a green pepper. Smaller papayas tend to be more tender than larger ones.
The shape can range from round to pear-shaped. Size can vary from a few inches long to over a foot. Choose green papayas that feel heavy for their size. Light papayas may have more seeds and stringy fibers inside.
Green papayas are available year-round in Asian markets and many grocery stores. Choose fruit that smells fresh, not overly ripe. Unwashed, whole green papaya will keep for up to 3 weeks when refrigerated. Ripe papayas should be kept for only 2-3 days.
Once cut, green papaya flesh will start to oxidize and turn slightly brown. To prevent this, sprinkle it with lime or lemon juice. Store cut green papaya in an airtight container and use within a few days.
Cutting green papaya
Green papaya has a tough outer skin that needs to be peeled away with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Once peeled, the flesh inside can then be sliced, chopped, shredded, or julienned depending on the recipe.
Here are some tips for prepping green papaya:
– Cut off the top and bottom ends. Stand the papaya upright and slice downward to remove the skin.
– Cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and stringy fibers from inside using a spoon.
– Rinse under cool water to clean. Pat dry.
– Place flat side down. Slice, dice or shred the flesh as desired.
– Rub all cut surfaces with lime or lemon juice to prevent browning.
– Avoid cutting too close to the skin, as the flesh near the skin is more fibrous.
Ripening green papaya
Green papayas can be left at room temperature to ripen into yellow-orange papayas. Here’s how:
– Choose green papayas that are mostly green with some yellowing at the stem end. Avoid fully green papaya, as it may take weeks to ripen.
– Let the papaya ripen at room temperature on the counter top. Expect ripening to take about 4-7 days.
– The papaya is ready when its skin turns mostly golden-yellow and gives slightly when gently pressed.
– Speed up ripening by placing green papayas in a paper bag along with an apple or banana, which release ethylene gas.
– Once ripe, papayas can be refrigerated for 2-3 days to slow further ripening.
– Avoid letting papayas over ripen, as the flavor declines and the flesh becomes mushy.
Here are answers to some common questions about eating green papaya raw:
Is green papaya safe to eat raw?
Yes, green papaya is safe to consume raw. It may be eaten raw in the same way as cucumbers, bell peppers, cabbage, and other raw vegetables. Raw papaya is commonly used in salads, salsas, and other dishes in cuisines around the world.
Does green papaya taste different than ripe papaya?
Yes, green and ripe papayas have distinctly different tastes and textures. Unripe green papaya is crunchy and mildly flavored. Ripe papaya has a soft, creamy texture and intense sweet, musky taste. Green papaya works better for savory preparations, while ripe papaya is typically eaten on its own.
Is there a difference between male and female papaya plants?
Yes, papaya plants are either male or female. Female plants produce the papaya fruit. Male papaya plants do not yield edible fruit, but people sometimes cook and eat the leaves as a vegetable. For eating the fruit raw, choose papayas from female papaya trees.
Does green papaya have nutrients?
Yes, green papaya contains many beneficial nutrients, including antioxidants like vitamins A and C, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and folate. It provides the enzyme papain, which aids digestion. Green papaya is considered a nutritious food, especially good for providing vitamin C.
Can you eat papaya seeds?
Papaya seeds are edible when fresh. They have a spicy, peppery taste. The seeds can be dried and ground to use as a pepper substitute. Papaya seeds also contain beneficial nutrients and antioxidants. However, eat them in moderation, as the spice may cause stomach upset in excess.
Tips for eating raw green papaya
Here are some tips for enjoying green papaya raw:
– Start with just a small amount until your body adjusts to digesting its enzymes. Overindulging at first may cause bloating or diarrhea.
– Rub lime or lemon juice on cut surfaces to prevent oxidation. If oxidation occurs, just scrape off the surface layer before eating.
– When making salad, add shredded green papaya just before serving so it doesn’t get too soft.
– Pair green papaya with spicy, bold, and acidic ingredients to balance its mild flavor.
– Remove the peel, seeds, and fibrous strings, as these parts can be tough to eat raw. The inner flesh is tender and crisp.
– For firmer texture, choose smaller, greener papayas. As it ripens, green papaya flesh softens.
– Avoid contaminating the flesh when cutting to prevent foodborne illness. Wash hands and utensils before prepping.
Green papaya is generally recognized as safe to eat raw. However, there are a few potential risks to consider:
Some people may be allergic to papayas. Symptoms like itching, swelling, or trouble breathing after consumption can indicate papaya allergy. Discontinue use if any hypersensitivity reaction occurs.
Green papaya contains compounds like benzyl isothiocyanate and glucosinolates. High intake of these may pose risks during pregnancy. Consult a doctor about use when pregnant or breastfeeding.
Bloating and diarrhea
The enzymes in raw papaya may cause digestive upset like gas, bloating, or diarrhea. Introduce raw green papaya slowly and drink plenty of water. Reduce intake if any abdominal discomfort occurs.
Compounds in papaya may increase blood thinning effects of anticoagulant medications like warfarin. Those taking blood thinners should exercise caution with papaya. Consult doctors about potential herb-drug interactions.
Papayas contain substances called chitinases that are also found in latex. Those with latex allergy may wish to avoid or limit raw papaya. Monitor for any symptoms after consuming.
Green, unripe papaya is commonly consumed raw in salads, salsas, and other preparations. Its crunchy texture and mild taste balance spicy foods. Raw green papaya provides beneficial nutrients and antioxidants like vitamins C and A. It also contains papain, an enzyme that aids digestion. Eating small amounts of raw green papaya is generally recognized as safe. Introduce it slowly and discontinue use if any discomfort occurs. When buying, look for green papayas that feel firm and heavy. Enjoy raw green papaya diced in curries, shredded into slaws, or blended into smoothies for a nutrition and flavor boost.