|Avg. Height X Width:
||6' x 5'
Red Lady Dwarf Papaya Tree in a 3 Gallon Container. Papaya has an enzyme that soothes the stomach and calms indigestion. The fruit is commonly consumed as a breakfast food, and it is often juiced as well. Red Lady is a dwarf self pollinating variety that is also especially resistant to papaya ring spot virus and can also be container grown, excellent for colder areas. The fruit typically weigh four to six pounds, and it has excellent flavor, aroma, and texture. Great value since Papaya is usually sold by the pound and can cost upwards of $5 each.
Origin and Distribution
Renovation of Planting
The papaya, Carica papaya L., is a member of the small family Caricaceae allied to the Passifloraceae. As a dual- or multi-purpose, early-bearing, space-conserving, herbaceous crop, it is widely acclaimed, despite its susceptibility to natural enemies. In some parts of the world, especially Australia and some islands of the West Indies, it is known as papaw, or pawpaw, names which are better limited to the very different, mainly wild Asimina triloba Dunal, belonging to the Annonaceae. While the name papaya is widely recognized, it has been corrupted to kapaya, kepaya, lapaya or tapaya in southern Asia and the East Indies. In French, it is papaye (the fruit) and papayer (the plant), or sometimes figuier des Iles. Spanish-speaking people employ the names melón zapote, lechosa, payaya (fruit), papayo or papayero (the plant), fruta bomba, mamón or mamona, depending on the country. In Brazil, the usual name is mamao. When first encountered by Europeans it was quite naturally nicknamed "tree melon".
Commonly and erroneously referred to as a "tree", the plant is properly a large herb growing at the rate of 6 to 10 ft (1.8-3 m) the first year and reaching 20 or even 30 ft (6-9 m) in height, with a hollow green or deep-purple stem becoming 12 to 16 in (30-40 cm) or more thick at the base and roughened by leaf scars. The leaves emerge directly from the upper part of the stem in a spiral on nearly horizontal petioles 1 to 3 1/2 ft (30-105 cm) long, hollow, succulent, green or more or less dark purple. The blade, deeply divided into 5 to 9 main segments, each irregularly subdivided, varies from 1 to 2 ft (30-60 cm) in width and has prominent yellowish ribs and veins. The life of a leaf is 4 to 6 months. Both the stem and leaves contain copious white milky latex. The 5-petalled flowers are fleshy, waxy and slightly fragrant. Some plants bear only short-stalked pistillate (female) flowers, waxy and ivory-white; or hermaprodite (perfect) flowers (having female and male organs), ivory-white with bright-yellow anthers and borne on short stalks; while others may bear only staminate (male) flowers, clustered on panicles to 5 or 6 ft (1.5-1.8 m) long. There may even be monoecious plants having both male and female flowers. Some plants at certain seasons produce short-stalked male flowers, at other times perfect flowers. This change of sex may occur temporarily during high temperatures in midsummer. Some "all-male" plants occasionally bear, at the tip of the spray, small flowers with perfect pistils and these produce abnormally slender fruits. Male or hermaphrodite plants may change completely to female plants after being beheaded. Generally, the fruit is melon-like, oval to nearly round, somewhat pyriform, or elongated club-shaped, 6 to 20 in (15-50 cm) long and 4 to 8 in (10-20 cm) thick; weighing up to 20 lbs (9 kg). Semi-wild (naturalized) plants bear miniature fruits 1 to 6 in (2.5-15 cm) long. The skin is waxy and thin but fairly tough. When the fruit is green and hard it is rich in white latex. As it ripens, it becomes light- or deep-yellow externally and the thick wall of succulent flesh becomes aromatic, yellow, orange or various shades of salmon or red. It is then juicy, sweetish and somewhat like a cantaloupe in flavor; in some types quite musky. Attached lightly to the wall by soft, white, fibrous tissue, are usually numerous small, black, ovoid, corrugated, peppery seeds about 3/16 in (5 mm) long, each coated with a transparent, gelatinous aril.
Origin and Distribution
Though the exact area of origin is unknown, the papaya is believed native to tropical America, perhaps in southern Mexico and neighboring Central America. It is recorded that seeds were taken to Panama and then the Dominican Republic before 1525 and cultivation spread to warm elevations throughout South and Central America, southern Mexico, the West Indies and Bahamas, and to Bermuda in 1616. Spaniards carried seeds to the Philippines about 1550 and the papaya traveled from there to Malacca and India. Seeds were sent from India to Naples in 1626. Now the papaya is familiar in nearly all tropical regions of the Old World and the Pacific Islands and has become naturalized in many areas. Seeds were probably brought to Florida from the Bahamas. Up to about 1959, the papaya was commonly grown in southern and central Florida in home gardens and on a small commercial scale. Thereafter, natural enemies seriously reduced the plantings. There was a similar decline in Puerto Rico about 10 years prior to the setback of the industry in Florida. While isolated plants and a few commercial plots may be fruitful and long-lived, plants in some fields may reach 5 or 6 ft, yield one picking of undersized and misshapen fruits and then are so affected by virus and other diseases that they must be destroyed. In the 1950's an Italian entrepreneur, Albert Santo, imported papayas into Miami by air from Santa Marta, Colombia, Puerto Rico and Cuba for sale locally as well as shipping fresh to New York, and he also processed quantities into juice or preserves in his own Miami factory. Since there is no longer such importation, there is a severe shortage of papayas in Florida. The influx of Latin American residents has increased the demand and new growers are trying to fill it with relatively virus-resistant strains selected by the University of Florida Agricultural Research and Education Center in Homestead. Successful commercial production today is primarily in Hawaii, tropical Africa, the Philippines, India, Ceylon, Malaya and Australia, apart from the widespread but smaller scale production in South Africa, and Latin America. Annual papaya consumption in Hawaii is 15 lbs (6.8 kg) per capita, yet 26 million lbs (11,838,700 kg) of fresh fruits were shipped by air freight to mainland USA in 1974, mainly direct from Hilo or via Honolulu. Puerto Rican production does not meet the local demand and fruits are imported from the Dominican Republic for processing. The papaya is one of the leading fruits of southern Mexico and 40% of that country's crop is produced in the state of Veracruz on 14,800 acres (6,000 ha) yielding 120,000 tons annually. Fruits from bisexual plants are usually cylindrical or pyriform with small seed cavity and thick wall of firm flesh which stands handling and shipping well. In contrast, fruits from female flowers are nearly round or oval and thin-walled. In some areas, bisexual types are in greatest demand. In South Africa, round or oval papayas are preferred.
Despite the great variability in size, quality and other characteristics of the papaya, there were few prominent, selected and named cultivars before the introduction into Hawaii of the dioecious, small-fruited papaya from Barbados in 1911. It was named 'Solo' in 1919 and by 1936 was the only commercial papaya in the islands. 'Solo' produces no male plants; just female (with round, shallowly furrowed fruits) and bisexual (with pear-shaped fruits) in equal proportions. The fruits weigh 1.1 to 2.2 lbs (1/2-1 kg) and are of excellent quality. When the fruit is fully ripe the thin skin is orange-yellow and the flesh golden-orange and very sweet.
If a papaya plant is inadequately pollinated, it will bear a light crop of fruits lacking uniformity in size and shape. Therefore, hand-pollination is advisable in commercial plantations that are not entirely bisexual. Bags are tied over bisexual blossoms for several days to assure that they are self-pollinated. The progeny of self-pollinated bisexual flowers are 67% bisexual, the rest being female. To cross-pollinate, one or 2 stamens from a bisexual flower are placed on the pistil of a female flower about to open and a bag is tied over the flower for a few days. Most of such cross-pollinated blooms should set fruit. Resulting seeds will produce 1/2 female and 1/2 bisexual plants. By another method, all but the apical female flower bud are removed from a stalk and the apical bud is bagged 1-2 days before opening. At full opening, the stigma is dusted with pollen from a selected male bloom and the bag quickly resealed and it remains so for 7 days. Plants from female flowers crossed with male flowers are 50-50 male and female. Bisexual flowers pollinated by males give rise to 1/3 female, 1/3 bisexual and 1/3 male plants. South African growers have long been urged to practice hand-pollination in order to maintain a selected strain and, in breeding, to incorporate factors such as purple stem, yellow flowers and reddish flesh so that the improved selection will be distinguishable from ordinary strains with non-purple stems, white flowers and yellow flesh.
The papaya is a tropical and near-tropical species, very sensitive to frost and limited to the region between 32º north and 32º south of the Equator. It needs plentiful rainfall or irrigation but must have good drainage. Flooding for 48 hours is fatal. Brief exposure to 32º F (-0.56º C) is damaging; prolonged cold without overhead sprinkling will kill the plants.
While doing best in light, porous soils rich in organic matter, the plant will grow in scarified limestone, marl, or various other soils if it is given adequate care. Optimum pH ranges from 5.5 to 6.7. Overly acid soils are corrected by working in lime at the rate of 1-2 tons/acre (2.4-4.8 tons/ha). On rich organic soils the papaya makes lush growth and bears heavily but the fruits are of low quality.
Papayas are generally grown from seed. Germination may take 3 to 5 weeks. It is expedited to 2 to 3 weeks and percentage of germination increased by washing off the aril. Then the seeds need to be dried and dusted with fungicide to avoid damping-off, a common cause of loss of seedlings. Well-prepared seeds can be stored for as long as 3 years but the percentage of germination declines with age. Dipping for 15 seconds in hot water at 158º F (70º C) and then soaking for 24 hrs in distilled water after removal from storage will improve the germination rate. If germination is slow at some seasons, treatment with gibberellic acid may be needed to get quicker results. To reproduce the characteristics of a preferred strain, air-layering has been successfully practiced on a small scale. All offshoots except the lowest one are girdled and layered after the parent plant has produced the first crop of fruit. Later, when the parent has grown too tall for convenient harvesting the top is cut off and new buds in the crown are pricked off until offshoots from the trunk appear and develop over a period of 4 to 6 weeks. These are layered and removed and the trunk cut off above the originally retained lowest sprout which is then allowed to grow as the main stem. Thereafter the layering of offshoots may be continued until the plant is exhausted. Rooting of cuttings has been practiced in South Africa, especially to eliminate variability in certain clones so that their performance can be more accurately compared in evaluation studies. Softwood cuttings made in midsummer rooted quickly and fruited well the following summer. Cuttings taken in fall and spring were slow to root and deficient in root formation. The commercial cultivar 'Honey Gold' is grown entirely from cuttings. Once rooted, the cuttings are planted in plastic bags and kept under mist for 10 days, and then put in a shade house for hardening before setting in the field. Hawaiian workers have found that large branches 2-3 ft (60-90 cm) long rooted more readily than small cuttings. Planted 1 ft (30 cm) deep in the rainy season, they began fruiting in a few months very close to the ground. In budding experiments both Forkert and chip methods have proved satisfactory in Trinidad. However, it is reported that a vegetatively propagated selected strain deteriorates steadily and is worthless after 3 or 4 generations. In Hawaii, 'Solo' grafted onto 'Dwarf Solo' was reduced in vigor and productivity, but 'Dwarf Solo' grafted onto 'Solo' showed improved performance. In recent years, the potential of rapid propagation of papaya selections by tissue culture is being explored and promises to be feasible even for the establishment of commercial plantations of superior strains. Efforts have been made to determine the sex of seedlings in the nursery, Indian scientists making colorimetric tests of leaf extracts have had 87% success in identifying seedlings as female; 67% in classifying males/bisexuals grouped together.
Planting may be done at any time of year and local conditions determine when it is best for the crop to come in. Papayas mature in 6 to 9 months from seed in the hotter areas of South Africa; in 9 to 11 months where it is cooler, providing an opportunity to supply markets in the off-season when prices are high. Seeds planted in early summer or midsummer will produce the first crop in the second winter. Thereafter, the same plants will mature fruit from spring to early summer. Spring fruits are apt to be sunburned because of winter leaf loss; are also subject to fruit spot and have a low sugar content. Sunburn can be avoided by advance whitewashing of sides exposed to the afternoon sun. Some growers manipulate the harvest season by stripping off 6 of the newly set fruits, thus forcing the plant to bloom again and produce fruits 6 to 8 weeks later than they normally would. In southern Florida, plants set out in March or April will ripen their fruits in November and December and have the advantage of a "tourist" market. July plantings will be slowed down by winter and will not fruit for 10 months or more. Some growers advocate planting in September and October so that the crop will be ready for harvest before the onset of the main hurricane season. Further north in the state, papayas must be set out in March or April in order to have the required growing season before frost. Spacing Puerto Rican trials have shown that papaya plants set in the field on 6 ft (1.8 m) centers made stronger, stouter growth and were more fruitful than those at closer spacings. Some growers insist on an 8 x 8 ft (2.4 x 2.4 m) area per plant. In India, 'Co. 1' and 'Co. 2' and 'Solo' are set on 6 ft (1.8 m) centers; 'Coorg Honey Dew' and 'Washington' on 8 ft (2.4 m) centers. Princess Orchards on Maui, Hawaii, plant in double rows with an alley between each pair providing room for cultural and harvesting operations. In Queensland, plants may be set only 3 ft (1 m) apart on level ground and then thinned out by removal of unwanted plants after flowering.
Seeds may be planted directly in the field, or seedlings raised in beds or pots may be transplanted when 6 weeks old or even up to 6 months of age, though there must be great care in handling and the longer the delay the greater the risk of dehydrated or twisted roots; also, transplanting often results in trunk-curvature in windy locations. Experiments in Hawaii indicate that direct seeding results in deeper tap-roots, erect and more vigorous growth, earlier flowering and larger yields. In Puerto Rico, it is customary to set 2 plants per hole. In El Salvador planters place 5 to 6 seeds, separated from each other, in each hole at a depth of 3/8 in (1 cm). When the plants bloom, 90% of the males are removed, preferably by cutting off at ground level. Pulling up disturbs the roots of the remaining plants. If the plantation is isolated and there is no chance of cross-pollination by males, all the seed will become female or hermaphrodite plants. Fruits should mature 5 to 8 months later. In India, seeds are usually treated with fungicide and planted in beds 6 in (15 cm) above ground level that have been organically enriched and fumigated. The seeds are sown 2 in (5 cm) apart and 3/4 to 1 1/8 in (2-3 cm) deep in rows 6 in (15 cm) apart. They are watered daily and transplanted in 2 1/2 months when 6 to 8 in (15-20 cm) high. Transplanting is more successful if polyethylene bags of enriched soil are used instead of raised beds. Two seeds are planted in each bag but only the stronger seedling is maintained. Transplanting is best done in the evening or on cloudy, damp days. On hot, dry days, each plant must be protected with a leafy branch or palm leaf stuck in the soil. Except for 'Coorg Honey Dew' and 'Solo', the plants are set out in 3's, 6 in (15 cm) apart in enriched pits. After flowering, one female or hermaphrodite plant is retained, the other two removed. But one male is kept for every 10 females. 'Coorg Honey Dew' and 'Solo' are planted one to a pit and no males are necessary. Watering is done every day until the plants are well established, but overwatering is detrimental to young plants. Double rows of Sesbania aegyptiaca are planted as a windbreak. The installation of constant drip irrigation (12 gals per day) has made possible papaya cultivation on mountain slopes on the relatively dry island of Maui which averages 10 in (25 cm) of rain annually. Papaya plants require frequent fertilization for satisfactory production. In India, best results have been obtained by giving 9 oz (250 g) of nitrogen, 9 oz (250 g) of phosphorus, and 18 oz (500 g) potash to each plant each year, divided into 6 applications. Because of the need to expedite growth and production before the onslaught of diseases, Puerto Rican agronomists recommend treating the predominantly clay soil with a nematicide before planting, giving each plant 4 oz (113 g) of 15-15-15 fertilizer at the end of the first week, and each month thereafter increasing the dose by 1 oz (28 g) until the beginning of flowering, then applying .227 g per plant as a final treatment. In trials, this program has permitted 6 harvests of green fruits for processing, each over 1 lb (1/2 kg) in weight, spanning a period of 13 months. The roots usually extend out beyond the leaves and it is advisable to spread fertilizer over the entire root area. In late fertilizer applications of a crop destined for canning, nitrogen should be omitted because it renders the fruit undesirable for processing. High nitrate content in canned papaya (as with several common vegetables) removes the tin from the can. To avoid nitrogen deficiency at the beginning of flowering for the next crop, 1 or 2% urea sprays can be applied. In southern Florida, on oolitic limestone, experts have prescribed liquid fertilizer weekly for the first 10 weeks and then 1 lb (1/2 kg) of 4-8-6 dry fertilizer mixture (with added minor elements) per plant weekly until flowering. Here a heavy organic mulch is desirable to conserve moisture, control weeds, keep the soil cool, and help repel nematodes. Mechanical cultivation between rows is apt to disturb the shallow roots. judicious use of herbicides is preferable. Overcrowded fruits should be thinned out when young to provide room for good form development and avoid pressure injury. Cold weather may interfere with pollination and cause shedding of unfertilized female flowers. Spraying the inflorescence with growth regulators stops flower drop and significantly enhances fruit set. After the first crop, the terminal growth may be nipped off to induce branching which tends to dwarf the plant and facilitates harvesting. However, unless the plants are strong growers, fruiting branches may need to be propped to avoid collapse.
Studies in Hawaii have shown that papaya flavor is at its peak when the skin is 80% colored. For the local market, in winter months, papayas may be allowed to color fairly well before picking, but for local market in summer and for shipment, only the first indication of yellow is permissible. The fruits must be handled with great care to avoid scratching and leaking of latex which stains the fruit skin. Home growers may twist the fruit to break the stem, but in commercial operations it is preferable to use a sharp knife to cut the stem and then trim it level with the base of the fruit. However, to expedite harvesting of high fruits, most Hawaiian growers furnish their pickers with a bamboo pole with a rubber suction cup (from the well-known "plumber's helper") at the tip. With the cup held against the lower end of the fruit, the pole is thrust upward to snap the stem and the falling fruit is caught by hand. One man can thus gather 800-1,000 lbs (363-454 kg) daily. In Hawaii, it has been calculated that manual picking and field sorting constitute 40% of the labor cost of the crop (1,702 man-hours per acre to pick and pack). Therefore, in 1970, an experimental mechanical aid was tested and results indicated that a machine with one operator and 2 pickers could harvest 1,000 lbs (454 kg) of fruit per hour, the equivalent of 8 men hand-picking. Many factors, such as investment, operation and repair costs, useful life, and so forth must be considered before such a machine could be determined to be feasible. On the island of Maui, harvesting is aided by hydraulic lifts, each operated by a single worker. Picking starts when the plants are 11 months of age and continues for 48 months when the trees are 25 ft (7.5 m) high, too tall for further usefulness. The fruits are best packed in single layers and padded to avoid bruising. The latex oozing from the stem may irritate the skin and workers should be required to wear gloves and protective clothing.
In the usual papaya plantation, each plant may ripen 2 to 4 fruits per week over the fruiting season. Healthy plants, if well cared for, may average 75 lbs (34 kg) of fruit per plant per year, though individual plants have borne as much as 300 lbs (136 kg). In South Africa, branched 'Honey Gold' plants set 20 ft (6 m) apart in rows 10 ft (3 m) apart have produced 45 lbs (100 kg) of fruit each in their 4th year. A field of 1,000 plants occupying 2 1/2 acres (1 ha) gave 30 tons of fruit. In the Hilo area of the island of Hawaii, production averages 15 tons per acre (37 tons/ha). From 250 acres (100 ha), Princess Orchards on Maui harvests 150,000 lbs (68,180 kg) weekly during the season. In the Kapoho region of the island of Hawaii, yields average 38,000 lbs/acre (roughly 38,000 kg/ha) the first year, 25,000 lbs (11,339 kg) the second year. Papaya plants bear well for 2 years and then productivity declines and commercial plantings are generally replaced after 3-4 years. By that time they have attained heights which make harvesting difficult.
Renovation of Planting
In Trinidad and Tobago, plants that have become too tall are cut to the ground and side shoots are allowed to grow and bear. In El Salvador, after the 3rd year of bearing, the main stem is cut off about 3 ft (1 m) from the ground at the beginning of winter and is covered with a plastic bag to protect it from rain and subsequent rotting. Several side shoots will emerge within a few days. When these reach 8 in to 1 ft (20-30 cm) in height, all are cut off except the most vigorous one which replaces the original top.
Fruits can be held at 85º F (29.64º C) and high atmospheric humidity for 48 hours to enhance coloring before packing. Standard decay control has been a 20-minute submersion in water at 120º F (49º C) followed by a cool rinse. In India, dipping in 1,000 ppm of aureofungin has been shown to be effective in controlling postharvest rots. In Philippine trials, thiabendazole reduced fruit rot by 50%. In 1979, Hawaiian workers demonstrated that spreading an aqueous solution of carnauba wax and thiabendazole over harvested fruits gives good protection from postharvest diseases and can eliminate the hot-water bath. In Puerto Rico, fruits of 'P.R. 8-65', picked green, were ripened successfully by 6-7 days treatment with ethylene gas in airtight chambers at 77º F (25º C) and 85 to 95% humidity, following the hot-water bath. Hawaiian papayas must be sanitized before shipment to the mainland USA to avoid introduction of fruit flies. Fruits picked 1/4 ripe are prewarmed in water at 110º F (43.33º C) for about 40 min, then quickly immersed for 20 min at 119º (48.33º C). This double-dipping maybe replaced by irradiation. One little-used method is a vapor-heat treatment following dry heat at 110º F (43.33º C) and 40% relative humidity. Fruits that have had hot water treatment and EDB fumigation and then have been stored in 1.5% oxygen at 55º F (13º C) for 12 days will have a shelf life of about 3 1/2 days at room temperature. Fruits that have had hot water treatment when 1/4 colored, followed by irradiation at 75-100 krad, and storage at 2-4% oxygen and 60º F (16º C) for 6 days will have a market life of 8 days. Those held for 12 days will be saleable thereafter for 5 days. In Puerto Rico, gamma irradiation (25-50 krads) delayed ripening up to 7 days. Treatment at 100 krads slightly accelerated ripening in storage. Even at the lowest level irradiation inhibited fungal growth. Carotenoid content was unaffected but ascorbic acid was slightly reduced at all exposures. Partly ripe papayas stored below 50º F (10º C) will never fully ripen. This is the lowest temperature at which ripe papayas can be held without chilling injury. 'Solo 62/3' fruits harvested in Trinidad at the first sign of yellow, treated with fungicide, placed in perforated polyethylene bags and packed in individual compartments in cartons, have been shipped to England by air (2 days' flight), ripened at 68º F (20º C), and found to be of excellent quality and flavor. The same cultivar, similarly handled, withstood transport in the refrigerated hold of a ship for 21 days. Immediately ripened on arrival, the fruits were well accepted on the London market. Sea shipment proved to be the more economical. Hypobaric (low pressure) containers have made possible satisfactory sea shipment (18-21 days) of hot-water treated and fungicidal-waxed papayas from Hilo, Hawaii, to Los Angeles and New York.
A major hazard to papayas in Florida and Venezuela is the wasp-like papaya fruit fly, Toxotrypana curvicauda. The female deposits eggs in the fruit which will later be found infested with the larvae. Only thick-fleshed fruits are safe from this enemy. Control on a commercial scale is very difficult. Home gardeners often protect the fruit from attack by covering with paper bags, but this must be done early, soon after the flower parts have fallen, and the bags must be replaced every 10 days or 2 weeks as the fruits develop. Rolled newspaper may be utilized instead of bags and is more economical. India has no fruit fly with ovipositor long enough to lay eggs inside papayas. An important and widespread pest is the papaya web-worm, or fruit cluster worm, Homolapalpia dalera, harbored between the main stem and the fruit and also between the fruits. It eats into the fruit and the stem and makes way for the entrance of anthracnose. Damage can be prevented if spraying is begun at the beginning of fruit set, or at least at the first sign of webs. The tiny papaya whitefly, Trialeuroides variabilis, is a sucking insect and it coats the leaves with honeydew which forms the basis for sooty mold development. Shaking young leaves will often reveal the presence of whiteflies. Spraying or dusting should begin when many adults are noticed. Hornworms (immature state of the sphinx moth–Erinnyis obscura in Jamaica, E. ello in Venezuela, E. alope in Florida) feed on the leaves, as do the small, light-green leafhoppers. Mention is made later on of the aphids that transmit virus diseases and other infections. Other pests requiring control measures in Australia include the red spider, or red spider mite, Tetranychus seximaculatus, which sucks the juice from the leaves. In India and on the island of Maui, plant and fruit infestation by red spider has been a major problem. This pest and the cucumber fly and fruit-spotting bugs feed on the very young fruits and cause them to drop. In Hawaii, the red-and-black-flat mite feeds on the stem and leaves and scars the fruit. The broad mite damages young plants especially during cool weather. In the Virgin Islands scale has been most troublesome, apart from rats and fruit-bats that attack ripe fruits. In Australia, 5 species of scale insects have been found on papayas, the most serious being oriental scale, Aonidiella orientalis, which occurs on both the fruit and the stem. So far, it is confined to limited areas. In Florida, the scale insects Aspidiotus destructor and Coccus hesperidium may infest bagged fruit more than unbagged fruit. Another scale, Philaphedra sp., has recently been reported here. Indian scientists have observed that immature earthworms, Megascolex insignis, are attracted by and feed on rotting tissue of papaya plants. They hasten the demise of plants afflicted with stem rot from Pythium aphanidermatum and may act as vectors for this fungus. Root-knot nematodes, Meloidogyne incognita acrita, and reniforin nematodes, Rotylenchulus reniformis, are detrimental to the growth and productivity of papaya plants and should be combatted by pre-planting soil fumigation if the nematode population is high.
Hawaii, partly because of its distance from other papaya-growing areas, is less afflicted with disease problems than Florida and Puerto Rico, but still has to combat a number of major and minor maladies. Most serious of all is the mosaic virus, on plant and fruit, which is common in Florida, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, and first seen in Hawaii in 1959. It is transmitted mechanically or by the green peach aphid, Myzus Persicae, and other aphids including the green citrus aphid, Aphis spiraecola, in Puerto Rico. Two forms of mosaic virus are reported in Puerto Rico: the long-known "southern coast papaya mosaic virus", the symptoms of which include extreme leaf deformation, and the relatively recent "Isabela mosaic virus" on the northern coast which is similar but without leaf distortion. Both forms occur in some northcoast plantations. There is no remedy, but measures to avoid spread include the destruction of affected plants, control of aphids by pesticides, and elimination of all members of the Cucurbitaceae from the vicinity. Mosaic is sporadic and scattered and not of great concern in Queensland. Papaya ringspot virus, prevalent in Florida, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, is occasionally serious in the Waianae area on the dry leeward side of Oahu. It is transmitted by the same vectors. Mosaic and ringspot viruses are the main limiting factors in papaya production in the Cauca Valley of Colombia. In Florida, virus diseases were recognized as the greatest threat to the papaya industry in the early 1950's. The first signs are irregular mottling of young leaves, then yellowing with transparent areas, leaf distortion, and rings on the fruit. If affected plants are not removed, the condition spreads throughout the plantation. Fruits borne 2 or 3 months after the first symptoms will have a disagreeable, bitter flavor. At the Agricultural Research and Education Center of the University of Florida in Homestead, the late Dr. Robert Conover established a test plot of papayas grown from seed of 95 accessions from a number of countries and 94 collections in Florida in the hope of finding some virus-free strains. Most of the introductions were highly susceptible to papaya ringspot virus; local strains showed some resistance. Highest tolerance was shown by a dioecious, round-fruited, yellow-fleshed strain brought from Colombia by Dr. S.E. Malo several years ago. The fruits weigh 3-5 lbs (1.36-2.27 kg). It is thought that at least 3 virus diseases are involved in papaya decline in East Africa and it has been suggested that the diseases are spread in part by the tapping of green fruits for their latex (the source of papain). Bunchy top is a common, controllable mycoplasma disease transmitted by a leafhopper, Empoasca papayae in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica; by that species and E. dilitara in Cuba; and by E. stevensi in Trinidad. Bunchy top can be distinguished from boron deficiency by the fact that the tops of affected plants do not ooze latex when pricked. In the subtropical part of Queensland, but not in the tropical, wet climate of northern Queensland, papaya plants are subject to die-back, a malady of unknown origin, which begins with shortening of the petioles and bunching of inner crown leaves. Then the larger crown leaves quickly turn yellow. Affected plants can be cut back at the first sign of the disease and if the cut stem is covered to avoid rotting, the top will be replaced by healthy side branches. The problem occurs mainly in the hot, dry spring after a season of heavy rains. Anthracnose, which usually attacks the ripe fruits and is caused by the fungus Colletotrichum gloeosporioides, was formerly the most important papaya disease in Hawaii, Mexico and India, but it is controllable by spraying every 10 days, or every week in hot, humid seasons, and hotwater treatment of harvested fruits. A strain of this fungus produces "chocolate spot" (small, angular, superficial lesions). A disease resembling anthracnose but which attacks papayas just beginning to ripen, was reported from the Philippines in 1974 and the causal agent was identified as Fusarium solani. A major disease in wet weather is phytophthora blight. Phytophthora parasitica attacks and rots the stem and roots of the plant and infects and spoils the fruit surface and the stem-end, inducing fruit fall and mummification. Fungicidal sprays and removal of diseased plants and fruits will reduce the incidence. P. Palmivora has been identified as the chief cause of root-rot in Hawaii and Costa Rica. In Hawaii, the strains, 'Waimanalo-23' and -24, 'Line 8' and 'Line 40', are resistant to this fungus. 'Kapoho Solo' and '45-T22' are moderately resistant, and 'Higgins' is susceptible. Root-rot by Pythium sp. is very damaging to papayas in Africa and India. P. ultimum causes trunk rot in Queensland. Collar rot in 8- to 10-month old seedlings, evidenced by stunting, leaf-yellowing and shedding, and total loss of roots, was first observed in Hawaii in 1970, and was attributed to attack by Calonectria sp. Collar rot is sometimes so severe in India as to cause growers to abandon their plantations. Powdery mildew, caused by Oidium caricae (the imperfect state of Erysiphe cruciferarum the source of mildew in the Cruciferae) often affects papaya plants in Hawaii and both plants and fruits elsewhere. Sulfur, judiciously applied, is an effective control. Powdery mildew is caused by Sphaerotheca humili in Queensland and by Ovulariopsis papayae in East Africa. Angular leaf spot, a form of powdery mildew, is linked in Queensland to the fungus Oidiopsis taurica. Corynespora leaf spot, or brown leaf spot, greasy spot or "papaya decline" (spotting of leaves and petioles and defoliation) in St. Croix, Puerto Rico, Florida and Queensland, is caused by Corynespora cassiicola, which is controllable with fungicides. A new papaya disease, yellow strap leaf, similar to YSL of chrysanthemums, appeared in Florida during the summer in 1978 and 1979. Black spot, resulting from infection by Cercospora papayae, has plagued Hawaiian growers since the winter of 1952-53. It causes defoliation, reduces yield, blemishes the fruit, and is unaffected by the hot-water dip. It can be prevented by field use of fungicides. Rhizopus oryzae is most commonly linked with rotting fruits on Pakistan markets. R. nigricans is the usual source of fruit rot in Queensland. Injured fruits are prone to fungal rotting caused by R. stolonifer and Phytophthora palmivora. Stem-end rot occurs when fruits are pulled, not cut, from the plant and the fungus, Ascochyta caricae, is permitted entrance. This fungus attacks very young and older fruits in Queensland and also causes trunk rot. In South Africa, it affects cv 'Honey Gold' which is also subject to spotting by Asperisporium caricae on the fruits and leaves. Both of these diseases are controllable by fungicidal sprays. Infection at the apex by Cladospoiium sp. is manifested by internal blight. A pre-harvest fruit rot caused by Phomopsis caricae papayae is troublesome in Queensland and was announced from India in 1971. A new disease, papaya apical necrosis, caused by a rhabdovirus, was reported in Florida in 1981. Papayas are frequently blemished by a condition called "freckles", of unknown origin; and mysterious hard lumps of varying size and form may be found in ripe fruits. Star spot (grayish-white, star-shaped superficial markings) appears on immature fruits in Queensland after exposure to cold winter winds. In Uttar Pradesh, an alga, Cephaleuros mycoidea, often disfigures the fruit surface. In Brazil, Hawaii and other areas, a fungus, Botryodiplodia theobromae, causes severe stem rot and fruit rot. Trichothecium rot (T. roseum) is evidenced by sunken spots soon covered by pink mold on fruits in India. Charcoal rot, Macrophomina phaseoli, is reported in Pakistan. Young papaya seedlings are highly susceptible to damping-off, a disease caused by soil-borne fungi–Pythium aphanidermatum, P. ultimum, Phytophthorap palmivora, and Rhizoctonia sp.,–especially in warm, humid weather. Pre-planting treatment of the soil is the only means of prevention. Papayas generally do poorly on land previously planted with papayas and this is usually the result of soil infestation by Pythium aphanidernwtum and Phytophthora palmivora. Plant refuse from previous plantings should never be incorporated into the soil. Soil fumigation is necessary before replanting papayas in the same field.
Ripe papayas are most commonly eaten fresh, merely peeled, seeded, cut in wedges and served with a half or quarter of lime or lemon. Sometimes a few seeds are left attached for those who enjoy their peppery flavor but not many should be eaten. The flesh is often cubed or shaped into balls and served in fruit salad or fruit cup. Firm-ripe papaya may be seasoned and baked for consumption as a vegetable. Ripe flesh is commonly made into sauce for shortcake or ice cream sundaes, or is added to ice cream just before freezing; or is cooked in pie, pickled, or preserved as marmalade or jam. Papaya and pineapple cubes, covered with sugar sirup, may be quick-frozen for later serving as dessert. Half-ripe fruits are sliced and crystallized as a sweetmeat.
Papaya juice and nectar may be prepared from peeled or unpeeled fruit and are sold fresh in bottles or canned. In Hawaii, papayas are reduced to puree with sucrose added to retard gelling and the puree is frozen for later use locally or in mainland USA in fruit juice blending or for making jam.
Unripe papaya is never eaten raw because of its latex content. [Raw green papaya is frequently used in Thai and Vietnamese cooking.] Even for use in salads, it must first be peeled, seeded, and boiled until tender, then chilled. Green papaya is frequently boiled and served as a vegetable. Cubed green papaya is cooked in mixed vegetable soup. Green papaya is commonly canned in sugar sirup in Puerto Rico for local consumption and for export. Green papayas for canning in Queensland must be checked for nitrate levels. High nitrate content causes detinning of ordinary cans, and all papayas with over 30 ppm nitrate must be packed in cans lacquered on the inside. Australian growers are hopeful that the papaya can be bred for low nitrate uptake. A lye process for batch peeling of green papayas has proven feasible in Puerto Rico. The fruits may be immersed in boiling 10% lye solution for 6 minutes, in a 15% solution for 4 minutes, or a 20% solution for 3 minutes. They are then rapidly cooled by a cold water bath and then sprayed with water to remove all softened tissue. Best proportions are 1 lb (.45 kg) of fruit for every gallon (3.8 liters) of solution.
Young leaves are cooked and eaten like spinach in the East Indies. Mature leaves are bitter and must be boiled with a change of water to eliminate much of the bitterness. Papaya leaves contain the bitter alkaloids, carpaine and pseudocarpaine, which act on the heart and respiration like digitalis, but are destroyed by heat. In addition, two previously undiscovered major D1-piperideine alkaloids, dehydrocarpaine I and II, more potent than carpaine, were reported from the University of Hawaii in 1979. Sprays of male flowers are sold in Asian and Indonesian markets and in New Guinea for boiling with several changes of water to remove bitterness and then eating as a vegetable. In Indonesia, the flowers are sometimes candied. Young stems are cooked and served in Africa. Older stems, after peeling, are grated, the bitter juice squeezed out, and the mash mixed with sugar and salt. In India, papaya seeds are sometimes found as an adulterant of whole black pepper. Collaborating chemists in Italy and Somalia identified 18 amino acids in papaya seeds, principally, in descending order of abundance, glutamic acid, arginine, proline, and aspartic acid in the endosperm; and proline, tyrosine, lysine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid in the sarcotesta. A yellow to brown, faintly scented oil was extracted from the sundried, powdered seeds of unripe papayas at the Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, India. White seeds yielded 16.1% and black seeds 26.8% and it was suggested that the oil might have edible and industrial uses.
The papaya is regarded as a fair source of iron and calcium; a good source of vitamins A, B and G and an excellent source of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). The following figures represent the minimum and maximum levels of constituents as reported from Central America and Cuba.
Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion Fruit*
Protein .081-.34 g
Fat .05-.96 g
Carbohydrates 6.17-6.75 g
Crude Fiber 0.5-1.3 g
Ash .31-.66 g
Calcium 12.9-40.8 mg
(CO) Phosphorus 5.3-22.0 mg
Iron 0.25-0.78 mg
Carotene .0045-.676 mg 28,900 I.U.
Riboflavin .024-058 mg
Niacin .227-555 mg
Ascorbic Acid 35.5-71.3 mg
Tryptophan 4-5 mg
Methionine 1 mg
Lysine 15-16 mg
*Analyses made in Malaya.
Carotenoid content of papaya (13.8 mg/100 g dry pulp) is low compared to mango, carrot and tomato. The major carotenoid is cryptoxanthin.
The latex of the papaya plant and its green fruits contains two proteolytic enzymes, papain and chymopapain. The latter is most abundant but papain is twice as potent. In 1933, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) was the leading commercial source of papain but it has been surpassed by East Africa where large-scale production began in 1937. The latex is obtained by making incisions on the surface of the green fruits early in the morning and repeating every 4 or 5 days until the latex ceases to flow. The tool is of bone, glass, sharp-edged bamboo or stainless steel (knife or raxor blade). Ordinary steel stains the latex. Tappers hold a coconut shell, clay cup, or glass, porcelain or enamel pan beneath the fruit to catch the latex, or a container like an "inverted umbrella" is clamped around the stem. The latex coagulates quickly and, for best results, is spread on fabric and oven-dried at a low temperature, then ground to powder and packed in tins. Sun-drying tends to discolor the product. One must tap 1,500 average-size fruits to gain 1 1/2 lbs (0.68 kg) of papain. The lanced fruits may be allowed to ripen and can be eaten locally, or they can be employed for making dried papaya "leather" or powdered papaya, or may be utilized as a source of pectin. Because of its papain content, a piece of green papaya can be rubbed on a portion of tough meat to tenderize it. Sometimes a chunk of green papaya is cooked with meat for the same purpose. One of the best known uses of papain is in commercial products marketed as meat tenderizers, especially for home use. A modern development is the injection of papain into beef cattle a half-hour before slaughtering to tenderize more of the meat than would normally be tender. Papain-treated meat should never be eaten "rare" but should be cooked sufficiently to inactivate the enzyme. The tongue, liver and kidneys of injected animals must be consumed quickly after cooking or utilized immediately in food or feed products, as they are highly perishable. Papain has many other practical applications. It is used to clarify beer, also to treat wool and silk before dyeing, to de-hair hides before tanning, and it serves as an adjunct in rubber manufacturing. It is applied on tuna liver before extraction of the oil which is thereby made richer in vitamins A and D, It enters into toothpastes, cosmetics and detergents, as well as pharmaceutical preparations to aid digestion. Papain has been employed to treat ulcers, dissolve membranes in diphtheria, and reduce swelling, fever and adhesions after surgery. With considerable risk, it has been applied on meat impacted in the gullet. Chemopapain is sometimes injected in cases of slipped spinal discs or pinched nerves. Precautions should be taken because some individuals are allergic to papain in any form and even to meat tenderized with papain.
In tropical folk medicine, the fresh latex is smeared on boils, warts and freckles and given as a vermifuge. In India, it is applied on the uterus as an irritant to cause abortion. The unripe fruit is sometimes hazardously ingested to achieve abortion. Seeds, too, may bring on abortion. They are often taken as an emmenagogue and given as a vermifuge. The root is ground to a paste with salt, diluted with water and given as an enema to induce abortion. A root decoction is claimed to expel roundworms. Roots are also used to make salt. Crushed leaves wrapped around tough meat will tenderize it overnight. The leaf also functions as a vermifuge and as a primitive soap substitute in laundering. Dried leaves have been smoked to relieve asthma or as a tobacco substitute. Packages of dried, pulverized leaves are sold by "health food" stores for making tea, despite the fact that the leaf decoction is administered as a purgative for horses in Ghana and in the Ivory Coast it is a treatment for genito-urinary ailments. The dried leaf infusion is taken for stomach troubles in Ghana and they say it is purgative and may cause abortion.
Studies at the University of Nigeria have revealed that extracts of ripe and unripe papaya fruits and of the seeds are active against gram-positive bacteria. Strong doses are effective against gram-negative bacteria. The substance has protein-like properties. The fresh crushed seeds yield the aglycone of glucotropaeolin benzyl isothiocyanate (BITC) which is bacteriostatic, bactericidal and fungicidal. A single effective does is 4-5 g seeds (25-30 mg BITC). In a London hospital in 1977, a post-operative infection in a kidney-transplant patient was cured by strips of papaya which were laid on the wound and left for 48 hours, after all modern medications had failed.
Mention has already been made of skin irritation in papaya harvesters because of the action of fresh papaya latex, and of the possible hazard of consuming undercooked meat tenderized with papain. It must be added that the pollen of papaya flowers has induced severe respiratory reactions in sensitive individuals. Thereafter, such people react to contact with any part of the plant and to eating ripe papaya or any food containing papaya, or meat tenderized with papain.