Go to any of the popular grocery stores at Tagbilaran City and notice how they rarely carry a good selection of papayas; worse, there’s hardly any selection at all. I found this puzzling at first until I realized that most Boholanos have papaya trees in their yard. A local I once spoke to claims the two trees at his backyard bear fruit so abundantly his family got tired of eating papayas, and nowadays just leave the fruits for the birds to feast on.
I love papayas! There was a time I would go on a three-day cleansing diet by just eating papayas and nothing else. According to recent studies, papaya has protein-digesting enzyme, papain, in the milky juice or latex, which is carried in a network of vessels throughout the plant. The enzyme is similar to pepsin in its digestive action and is reputed to be so powerful that it can digest 200 times its own weight in protein. Its effect is to assist the body's own enzymes in assimilating the maximum nutritional value from food to provide energy and body building materials.
Moreover, if eaten regularly, papaya can correct habitual constipation, bleeding piles and chronic diarrhea. The juice of the papaya seeds is also useful in dyspepsia and bleeding hemmorrhoids.
Regarded as a wholesome fruit, it can fulfill our body’s daily requirements for essential nutrients like proteins, mineral and vitamins. The vitamin C in the papaya increases as the fruit’s maturity progresses. Also, its carbohydrate content is mainly of invert sugar which is a form of predigested food.
Papaya is cultivated for its edible ripe fruit; its juice is a popular beverage, and its young leaves, shoots, and fruits are cooked as a vegetable. It is also used as flavoring in candies, jellies, preserves, and ice cream. Shallow cuts on the surface of fully grown but unripe fruits cause the exudation of a milky sap or latex that is collected, dried, and termed crude papain.
Papain, the enzyme in papayas, has a wealth of industrial uses. It has milk-clotting (rennet) and protein-digesting properties. Nearly 80% of American beer is treated with papain so as to remain clear upon cooling. Papain is most commonly used commercially in meat tenderizers and chewing gums. Cosmetically, papain is used in some dentifrices, shampoos, facial creams and soaps.
Papaya has been used widely in folk medicine for many ailments: the juice for warts, corns, cancers, tumors, and indurations of the skin; the roots or their extracts for tumors of the uterus, syphilis, yaws, hemorrhoids, and to remove urine concretions; the unripe fruit as a mild laxative or diuretic, and to stimulate lactation, labor, or abortion; the ripe fruit for rheumatism and alkalinizing the urine; the seeds as an anthelmintic or to stimulate menstruation or abortion; the leaves as a poultice on nervous pains and elephantoid growths, or smoked for asthma relief; and the latex for psoriasis, ringworm, dyspepsia, or applied externally as an antiseptic or to heal burns or scalds, or smeared on the cervix as an ecbolic.
Waverley Root, an American journalist wrote, "The papaya leads a disorderly life. Normally some plants bear female flowers and others male flowers, putting it in the category of 'harem trees' -- male trees are thinned out as soon as their sex can be determined, to leave one male for each eight to fifteen females."
"The papaya is not normal. Hermaphroditic trees appear, bearing both male and female flowers, while others change their minds in midcareer and shift from male to female or vice versa. Miscegenation is rampant, too," Root further claims.
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