Papayas are native to Mexico and Central America but now thanks to planes, trains, and automobiles we can get them wherever the heck we want. You guys know I'm all about the local and organic foods, but I'm also all about variety so I say get out of that apple and banana funk and try something different! That being said, choose carefully.
As a result of Papaya Ringspot Virus, scientists developed a genetically modified version of the papaya which is resistant to the virus. About 80% of papayas grown in Hawaii are genetically modified. You can spot (and avoid) these by reading stickers. GMO versions are called SunUp or Rainbow papayas.
If you want to eat the papaya that day you should choose one that has reddish-orange skin and is slightly soft. Green papayas or ones that are overly hard can be used for cooking or in Asian salads. Papayas will ripen in a few days and you can speed the process by putting them in a brown paper bag with a banana. I know this sounds like a bizarre old wives tale but it really works. Why? Bananas give off ethylene gas which speeds the ripening process. I impatiently sliced this guy open before he was ready. If you're like me, try using papaya in these recipes:
Papaya Chicken (use olive oil)
Curried Chicken Salad with Mango and Papaya
Herbed Chicken Salmon with Papaya Chile Salsa
And if you want to get fancy... Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Jalepeno Papaya Sauce
Wanna know a fun fact? Hokay! Papayas contain an enzyme called papain which breaks down proteins. That means you can use it as a tenderizer for meats! Not sure how to do that? Don't worry, I've got a recipe for you right here. Obviously you know to use olive oil, not vegetable oil. Not into it? Try this one. Yah welcome.
Now don't think I'm going to let you get away without telling you about the nutrition! One medium papaya has about 120 calories and a ton of vitamins and minerals including: Vitamins A, C, E, and K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc PLUS phytochemicals including lycopene and other polyphenols.
Go buy one.