Agricultural officials try to boost unappreciated papaya

The many seeds can be removed easily

Agricultural officials are trying to give a boost to the unappreciated papaya to increase local consumption and exports.

The Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería is promoting the fruit for its health benefits and said that there are about 1,000 hectares (about 2,500 acres) planted of the fruit in the country. Most of the production is in Pococí, Guácimo, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Paquera, Parrita and Orotina, the ministry said.

The fruit has an unusual taste that grows on consumers like a good scotch whiskey. Pineapple and mango seem to be more preferred in a fruit plate, but papaya does not have the sharp taste. Dried papaya can be a sweet treat.

The ministry touts the vitamins C and A that are contained within the fruit. The Universidad de Costa Rica has produced a new variety, payapa perfecta, that does not have a strong odor, and the tall papaya trees usually produce fruit of about the same size, perfect for marketing. The flavor is supposed to be better, too. Most papaya grown here is of this variety.

The tree actually is a big herb. The fruit sells cheaply in the marketplace, and the ministry notes that it has been lauded for its aid to digestion. Papaya also can be used as a meat tenderizer. Some Costa Ricans wrap meat in papaya leaves. Commercially it is a powder sold as a tenderizer. The seeds can be eaten. Some cooks grind them and serve them like pepper for their sharp taste.

Papaya now is exported to Canada, and the ministry hopes to increase exports to Europe.

Papaya is believed to be native to Central America. Mexican residents were eating the fruit long before the rise of the great civilizations. Now the fruit is produced all over the tropical world.

In Spanish it is called melón zapote, mamao, naimi, capaídso, fruta bomba, lechosa, mamón, mampucha, pucha and paque. In some countries papaya is not a word for mixed company, so substitutes have been created.

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