Papa I Tok
The sights and sounds of Milne Bay

The papaya or pawpaw – well worth growing


Papaya THOSE OF US who have lived in the tropics know how easy it can be to grow pawpaws. There are now a variety of this South American fruit available including the strawberry pawpaw that has a rich deep red flesh.

My favourite however is the common old garden variety that seems to sprout up from nowhere but probably from where some seeds where thrown away in the past.

Pawpaws can be dried and used later however fresh is best. Keeping the fruit bats (blek bokis) away from ripe pawpaws is always a problem however if you pick the fruit just as it is ripening and store it inside, you can remove much of the temptation.

There is one way I know of for using a pawpaw twice in cooking. If you are unlucky enough to have some meat (pork, beef or chicken) which is a bit tough, you can use a ripe pawpaw to tenderise the meat.

First stand the pawpaw up with the stalk at the top. Insert a sharp, pointed knife into the fruit about 2/3’s of the way up to the top and at an angle of 45%. Slice around in a circular direction until you can lift the top of the pawpaw out like a plug. Inside you will find a hollow and the pawpaw’s seeds.

Pawpaw seeds are covered in a natural meat tenderiser called papain. Place your tough pieces of meat inside the pawpaw and replace the top plug so that it fits together. Push some slivers of bamboo into the cut at 90% to keep the ‘plug’ in place and leave for a few hours but not until the meat goes rancid. When cooked separately, the meat will be deliciously tender however you can now use the pawpaw as a cooking vessel as well.

Here is a cheap yet nutritious meal. After you have removed the meat, scrape out the pawpaw seeds and fill the fruit with a mixture of boiled rice, finely chopped meat or fish (tin fish is OK) and any chopped greens and herbs to your taste.

Try a mixture of chopped spring onions, choko shoots (kru sako), pumpkin shoots, watercress or mint with a little salt and sugar. A freshly beaten egg to help bind the mixture together and a little fresh coconut milk will give a great aroma when cooked.

Wrap the stuffed fruit with banana leaves if it is really ripe and place into a mild oven, camp oven, large saucepan or ground oven (mumu) and leave until pawpaw and the contents are completely cooked through but remove before the pawpaw turns ‘slushy’.

Love Papaya Slice the still hot pawpaw completely down the middle from one end to the other and serve as a complete meal. The fruit and filling to be eaten out of the pawpaw ‘bowl’ with a spoon. A large pawpaw can be sliced into quarters and serve a family of four.

Mmmmm.. I’m getting hungry already just thinking about it.

P.S. This cooking method can also be used with pumpkins when no pawpaws are available.


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Linda Saul

In Milne Bay, we grate green pawpaw and tenderise meat in it for no longer than 10 minutes. Blade steak becomes as tender as rump when fried.

12 seeds crushed and given ongoing, daily to children protect against malaria (kills the parasite) and as a wormer.

We use the white sap on ulcers and cover with the leaf until it heals.

Peter Kranz

I was told by mum when I was a boy that pawpaw skin was an old remedy for rashes, burns and skin complaints and was used by soldiers during the war. They put it on as a dressing under a bandage.

Here's a bit more info about the health benefits of pawpaw.

What we know as pawpaw or papaya is Carica Papaya. (There is a different and unrelated fruit in North America also called pawpaw - asimina.)

Green papaya fruit and the tree's latex are both rich in an enzyme called papain, a protease which is useful in tenderizing meat and other proteins.

Papaya extract is marketed in tablet form to remedy digestive problems.

Papain is also applied topically (in countries where it grows) for the treatment of cuts, rashes, stings and burns. Papain ointment is commonly made from fermented papaya flesh, and is applied as a gel-like paste.

Harrison Ford was treated for a ruptured disc incurred during filming of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom by papain injections.

Women in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and other countries have long used green papaya as a folk remedy for contraception and abortion.

Enslaved women in the West Indies were noted for consuming papaya to prevent pregnancies and thus preventing their children from being born into slavery.

It is also being studied for anti-cancer properties.

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