Living in a warm climate, the ability to cultivate fruit trees year round is one of the many benefits. The taste of papaya is creamy with a softer balance than that of a mango. It’s vaguely similar to pineapple and peach, although much milder without the tartness. In fact, Christopher Columbus referred to papayas as the “Fruit of Angels.” The unripe green fruit of papaya can be eaten when cooked, usually in curries and salads. I prefer to sprinkle fresh papaya with fresh lime juice and enjoy just as it is.
Though known for its Central American origins, the papaya that you purchase from your local grocer most likely came from Mexico or Hawaii. The fruit is ripe when it feels soft (like a ripe avocado, or a bit softer). Look for the skin to have an amber to orange hue. The black seeds are edible and have a sharp, spicy taste. The seeds are sometimes ground and used as a substitute for black pepper, but warning, the seeds are quite bitter as well.
Papayas that are very yellow should be left at room temperature where they will ripen in a few days. If you want to speed this process, place them in a paper bag with a banana. Ripe papayas should be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within one or two days, so you can enjoy their maximum flavor. Locally, Morton’s Market sells halved fresh papaya in the produce section.
Grilled Jumbo Prawns and Scallops with Papaya Salsa
This recipe is easy to do indoors on a George Forman Grill or outdoors. Fresh and light, this dish is wonderful when served with coconut rice.
1 lb. scallops
8 jumbo prawns
8 (10 inch) bamboo skewers-soaked in water
1 ripe papaya, diced
1/2 med. red onion, chopped (1 cup)
1/3 c. chopped fresh cilantro
3 Tbsp. lime juice, separated into 1 TBSP. plus 2
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 pinch kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1-teaspoon rice wine vinegar
2 tsp. vegetable oil
Preheat Heat Grill to medium high heat.
Rinse scallops and pat dry with paper towels and set aside. Peel and devein shrimp and set aside. Soak bamboo skewers in water (this prevents burning on the grill)
In a medium bowl, combine papaya, rice wine vinegar, red onion, garlic, cilantro, 2 Tablespoons lime juice, red pepper and salt. Mix gently to avoid mashing papaya. Cover and refrigerate (it will keep for up to 2 days). Place scallops on skewers. Mix together oil and 1-tablespoon lime juice. Baste scallops and shrimp and use two skewers ½ inch apart for shrimp and scallops to keep the shrimp from curling while grilling. Place on oiled grate. Grill until opaque, about 3 minutes on each side. Serve with papaya salsa on the side.