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Thai Fruits : The Papaya

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The Papaya

A Foreign Fruit Popular among the Thais

The Papaya (Carica Papaya) is a foreign fruit that has become very popular among the Thai people. Introduced into Thailand about 200 years ago at the beginning of the present Chakri dynasty, it has been a highly successful immigrant. It is now grown in every town and village of this country and its fruit is enjoyed by people in all walks of life.

Thai Fruits : PapayaIts great popularity may be attributed to several factors: The plant is easy to grow; it has a high productivity; its fruit has a good taste and is nutritious; its juice is also valuable.

According to the Encyclopaedia Britanica, the papaya originated in Mexico. However, it is stated in The Diffusion of Tropical Plants and the Portuguese Discoveries published in 1988 by the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that the papaya was first found in the Andes in South America. Anyway, it was recorded in the Manual of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits published by Hafner Press in 1920 that a Dutch tourist had reported in 1771 that a Portuguese had brought papaya seeds to the Philippines to be planted on Luzon Island. It was from there that the fruit was spread to Malacca and India.

Papaya TreeThere is no record as to who first brought papaya seeds to Thailand and when, though it is widely believed that it was soon after Bangkok was set up as the new capital. Then more and more people grew the trees, mostly in small quantities for self-consumption. Today, there are papaya plantations in Ratchaburi, Nakhon Pathom, Muak Lek in Saraburi and Pak Chong in Nakhon Ratchasima. They are an important export fruit of Thailand, ranking in value after longans, pineapples, durians and mangoes.

The papaya has different local names in different parts of the country, but is generally known as malako. The local names are widely different from each other, including loko, taengtan, mate and kuaila in the South, bakuaitet in the North, and mak-hung in the Northeast.

PapayaThe papaya is a dioecious plant with male and female flowers on separate plants. However, some of the papaya plants are monoecious. Only these monoecious plants bear fruits that are numerous, large and delicious. The papaya fruit contains 10% sugar, 0.5% protein, 0.1% fat, 0.1% acid, 1.3% fibres and 88% water. In addition, there are small amounts of vitamin C, carotene and protease.

The papaya is eaten as a fruit when ripe. Some like to add a few drops of lime juice to enrich its flavour. It is a popular fruit for both the rich and the poor because of its taste, nourishment and inexpensiveness. But it should be eaten before the fruit is too much ripened and its texture becomes too soft.

The unripe fruit is an important ingredient of a very popular salad called som tam, which is a mixture of sliced green papaya with dried shrimps, fried peanut kernels, tomatoes, palm sugar, fish sauce, bird peppers, etc., which are pounded together to make them well mixed before eating.

Thai Fruits : PapayaBoth ripe and unripe papayas are also made into processed food in several ways. The fruit, leaves and roots of the papaya tree all contain medicinal properties and are used by Thais as herbal medicine. One of the most useful parts of the plant is the juice from the green fruit called papain. It is a protein-splitting enzyme and a very good meat tenderizer and digestive aid. It is also used in many manufacturing industries, such as in making beer, soft drinks, medicines, leather, soaps, toothpaste, cosmetics, paper and chewing gum.

Papaya SaladIf you want to try to grow a few papaya plants in your backyard (in a tropical or subtropical area), use only the black seeds, soak them in water for 24 hours, wash them, remove the thin skins, and then place them in earth holes dug at a distance of about 2-2.5 metres from one another. Put 3-5 seeds in each hole. When the plants grow to a height of about 20 cm., keep the strongest one and pull up the others. If you are not in a hurry or unable to act promptly, you should put the seeds in a well-ventilated place for 2 or 3 days until they are dry. Then they can be kept for 2 to 3 months in a place with a humidity of no lower than 60%.

How to make Papaya Salad (Som Tam)

Ingredients
1. 2-3 cups coarsely grated papaya
2. 2 tomatoes, sliced
3. 2-3 cloves garlic
4. 2-3 chillies, chopped
5. 1 teaspoon grated lime rind
6. 1 tablespoon ground dried shrimps
7. 1 teaspoon sugar
8. 2 tablespoons lime juice
9. 1 tablespoon fish sauce


Green beans, lettuce and cabbages

Pound the garlic and chillies into a fine paste. Add the grated papaya, pound a little. Season with lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. Blend in the ground dried shrimps, grated lime rind and tomatoes.

Garnish with green beans, cabbage and lettuce. Serve with streamed glutinous rice. Pickled field crab or chopped roasted peanuts may be added for flavouring.

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