Papayas are large fruits, up to about 14-16 inches long when mature. The skin is green, turning yellow or orange as the fruit ripens. The black seeds are edible, though we have never eaten them. The ripe flesh is a dark pink color and is eaten raw with lime juice. Unripe (green) papaya is also widely eaten in salads or cooked in soups (as we experienced in Bali.)
Papaya trees are either male or female. Only the females bear fruit, but there must be a male tree nearby to provide pollen for fertilization. The female trees bear their short flowers directly on the trunk of the tree. The males grow their flowers on long stems.
Papayas contain an enzyme called papain, which is used as a meat tenderizer. Adding papaya juice to a meat marinade should help to tenderize the meat, but we haven't experimented with it yet and cannot offer any recommendations.
Filipinos prefer to eat papayas when the skin just begins to show yellow streaks along the sides; we prefer them when the skin is mostly yellow.
Market and storage tips For provisioning, buy papayas of varying ripeness so they don't all become ripe at one time. Store in a cool, dry place out of the sun. Papayas are large, and do not keep after being cut open. Once ripe, they spoil quickly.