Give papaya a chance, chele

Papaya is good and good for you
Calley P

Papaya is good and good for you

Why are papayas such an unpopular fruit among cheles? It may be an acquired taste, but it makes my heart hurt when I hear someone say they don’t like papaya.

Papayas grow fresh all across Nicaragua
Calley P

Papayas grow fresh all across Nicaragua

Many U.S. grocery stores sell the yellow Hawaiian papaya, which is very sweet. In my opinion, the Hawaiian papayas don’t have a lot of balanced fruit flavor. And some people have an aversion to the orange-flesh papaya, because they are accustomed to unripened papayas that have an astringent quality, or because the fruit has been left to over-ripen and tastes like fermented mush.

But being in Nicaragua, we have access to fresh, tree-riped orange papayas. Tourists here may not be used to eating papaya raw with granola every morning, but I challenge anyone to dislike papaya after giving it a fair shot with one of the recipes below.

Here in Nicaragua, papaya trees grow like weeds. The seed count inside each papaya is plentiful, plus birds help spread papaya trees in a natural and sustainable way. By human hand, scattering the seeds in your backyard can produce more than one tree within one rainy season!

If you are lacking outdoor space, don’t trash those papaya seeds just yet. They have a horseradish-pepper flavor when dried, and are perfect for sprinkling on salads or red meat.

I love cutting into a Nicaraguan papaya. I could peel and slice papayas all day long. It’s really meditative. The soft, coral flesh allows the knife to float through it like butter, and makes it easy to dice into perfect cubes.

Dog meets Papaya

Dog meets Papaya

My dog, the Tank, no surprise, loves papaya. And this helps me, because I can keep her away from my shoes, bras, and live electric cables by tossing her a few frozen slices of the orange fruit. Since papayas are enormous, it is a really helpful and cost effective fruit to keep the pup busy. (She’s a maniac, maniac on the floor!) I also like to think that the tenderizing properties of papaya help her digest other items she wolfs down when I am not looking.

Actually, papayas help humans in that regard also! Have you ever gotten a pill stuck in your throat? Just chomp on some papaya and it will dissolve in no time!

My favorite thing to do with papaya is turn it into a savory sauce. Here is an easy yet unique recipe to boost the flavor of your next meal.

Black Pepper Papaya BBQ Sauce

This recipe is perfect for chicken wings! (drool, chicken wings.) It’s also really tasty over fish, or with tortilla chips, or a straw.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 cups chopped mature papaya
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped ginger
1/4 cup tomato paste

1. Combine all ingredients with a whisk, and place in a large, stainless steel pot. Bring to a low boil and simmer. Stir every few minutes so that the mix doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pot. Continue to cook for about 10-15 minutes, until the cornstarch dissolves and the sauce loses its starchy & powdery texture.
Blend with a hand or stand blender.
Whisk the following ingredients in by hand.

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
6 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1-3 Tbs. hot sauce of your choice
5 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbs. and 1 tsp. kosher salt

This sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week, or the freezer for many months.

here are a few other papaya ideas:

1. toss your meat with papaya for 30 minutes before cooking for a more tender finished product
2. when making artisan bread, add dehydrated papaya instead of raisins
3. simple papaya salad– big cubes of ripe papaya, or shredded green papaya, mixed with fresh jalapeño, radish, cashews and lime
4. papaya-rum chutney: bring 3 parts papaya, 2 parts sugar and 1 part vinegar to a boil. Reduce until thick and syrupy, and add a hefty shot of Flor de Caña 7 year, salt and black pepper. This is excellent with cheese or pork.

About Calley Prezzano
Calley Prezzano

Calley Prezzano was classically trained in San Francisco, California. She has cooked in Michelin Star Restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area and was the founding Executive Chef of Jicaro Ecolodge in Granada, Nicaragua. She is the founding Executive Chef of La Finca y El Mar Restaurant in Rancho Santana in Tola, Nicaragua. (lafincayelmar.com)

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