In Season: Papaya

By Wendy McMillan

Dubbed “fruit of the angels” by Christopher Columbus, meltingly sweet papaya offers a splash of exotic flair to sweet and savory dishes. Available year round but best in summer and fall, one papaya has more than three times the daily value of powerhouse antioxidant vitamin C, which helps boost immunity and heart health. This luscious fruit contains a host of other nutrients, including carotenes, vitamin E, fiber, magnesium, and B vitamins folate and pantothenic acid. Papaya is also a source of papain, an enzyme that helps us digest proteins, and has been used in its extracted form to treat sports injuries, allergies, and various causes of trauma.

Tangy papaya sauce (serve over grilled shrimp, fish, or chicken)
In a blender or food processor, combine 1 cup peeled, diced papaya; 1/4 cup fresh lime juice; 1/4 cup honey; and 1/2 cup water. Process until smooth, then stir in 1 tablespoon finely diced red onion and a dash of chili powder.

Sweet and crunchy papaya salad with honey-lime dressing
Combine 1 ripe papaya, peeled and sliced crosswise; 1/2 cup grated carrot; and 1 cup each of jicama and red pepper, julienned. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup honey, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar. Toss with papaya mixture, and serve over lettuce.

Papaya and black bean rice salad
Whisk together 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, and 1/4 cup orange juice; set aside. In a large bowl, mix 1 peeled, diced papaya with 1 diced red pepper; 1/2 cup finely diced red onion; 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed; 2 cups cooked brown rice; and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro. Stir in dressing.

Tropical breakfast bowl
Heat 1/2 cup amaranth or whole oats with 1 cup rice or soy milk and 1/2 cup water (for oats, reduce water to 1/4 cup); bring to near boil, then reduce heat. Add a mix of diced papaya and mango (about 1/2 cup each or 1 cup papaya only), 1/4 cup pecan pieces, and 1/2 cup raisins. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until creamy. Top with a tablespoon of shredded coconut.