Papaya-The Star Fruit of Costa Rica
- by elaine.osterhout
- 8:00 AM UTC
- Filed in Costa Rica
What fruit is good for you, aids in digestion, makes a great smoothie, and can tenderize meat? If you guessed the papaya, a popular fruit grown throughout Costa Rica, you are right! The papaya plant, which is actually an herb, not a tree, is known as the “star” of Costa Rica farming.
Although the exact origin of the papaya is unknown, it is considered to be native to either Costa Rica or southern Mexico. The papaya tree domestication spread quickly due to its value as a food and its medicinal uses. The papaya fruit has become so popular that not only is it found growing wild in the rain forests, but also in residential and resort gardens, small neighborhood groves, and as a vital crop throughout Costa Rica. Papaya groves are great places to spot toucans and monkeys because they are attracted to the sweet, juicy fruit of this delicious plant.
Papaya fruit contain the enzyme papain, a natural digestive aid responsible for the breakdown of protein and cleansing of the digestive tract. The enzyme also helps break down inflamed tissue and is an ingredient found in many modern meat tenderizers. The leaves of the papaya tree are also useful and sometimes used to treat skin infections and wasp stings in Costa Rica. Papayas are very nutritional; rich in vitamin C, folate, and potassium and are good sources of fiber, vitamin A and E. The papaya is rated as one of the top three most nutritional fruits by many nutritionists. Two cups of fresh papaya daily is the recommended serving size to reap the benefits of this healthy fruit.
Papayas are ripe and ready to be eaten when the skin is soft and has a golden yellow color. The papaya is often eaten raw with a touch of lime, in fruit salads, and in milkshakes and smoothies. So the next time you want a juicy piece of fruit, try something different from the rich farmlands of Costa Rica-the papaya!
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