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Grilled Papaya

Updated on October 24, 2020
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Lee has a degree in philosophy, but when cooking, Lee is more like an experimental scientist than an abstract thinker. Loves new ideas.

Not everyone does this

The papaya stands first among the fruits in at least one respect -- it was the first to have its genome sequenced.

Perhaps that is a tribute, however backhanded, to its delicious taste. It was, after all,one of the glories awaiting Europeans when they finally discovered what they called the New World. Its sublime taste ensured that it would be widely cultivated and widely distributed throughout the world.

Columbus and the many who followed in this -- footsteps? -- had, of course, no idea of genes, let alone of a machine that could sequence them. But one suspects that they may have had an inkling that this gift of this New World was destined for greatness.

Delicious when allowed to ripen, the bitter seeds scooped out (I have a friend who eats them right along with everything else), and sauced with several squeezes of fresh lime juice. For me it is that lime juice that accents the papaya perfectly, the way just the right amount of salt can sharpen the taste of so many wonderful things to eat.

But the papaya is not often grilled. Yet there are reasons for doing so, mighty good reasons as we shall see.. At any rate, here are pictures showing how. The idea is that these will entice you into embarking on a backyard adventure that is both simple and delicious.

When ripe

The grilling process may substitute for the ripening process -- to some extent.

But it is best to wait for the papaya to ripen naturally.

This large Mexican papaya (papayas were first cultivated in Mexico) took about five days to ripen. Waiting that long heightens the expectations, of course. But these expectations will be fulfilled!

Open wide

Slicing the papaya open is, of course, simple.

Slicing it open also gives an indication of how ripe the papaya is. The easier the knife goes through the flesh, the riper the papaya is.

What about those seeds? As I mentioned above, I have a friend who eats the seeds as well as the flesh. But he grew up partly in Peru, so his experience is perhaps out of the ordinary. Most everyone reading this is likely to want to remove the seeds.


Pretty simple, of course.

The friend who eats the seeds would seem an odd duck, but he claims everyone did it where he grew up. One of the impressive things about a papaya, especially after the seeds have been removed, is how much pure fruit is there on display. It is a thin-skinned fruit (and therefore doesn't take criticism lightly -- though we have absolutely none in the face of such edible beauty).

Proceed to the pre-heated grill after one more step.

Pieces headed for the grill

Rather than grilling the whole halves, we get more effect from the grilling if we cut each half up into several pieces.

This is such a large papaya that a whole half would be an awfully lot to eat, though true fans may not be deterred by the amount.

For ordinary mortals, however, one or two of these pieces would serve as breakfast -- served with a cafe latte or a double expresso.

Initially on the grill

Face down.

Just a couple of minutes. We put the pieces on a preheated grill face down, close the lid, and leave them for a couple of minutes.

We are grilling the lime also (this is unusual). Its flavor, too, is enhanced by the grill.

Face up

Face up to the fact that these are looking delicious.

A couple of more minutes on this side, and we are done.

We removed the lime after turning the papaya pieces over -- it was already done.

Back from the grill

It is difficult to describe the change in flavor that the grilling produces. But we can try.

Try this: 100% gets changed to 90%/10%. The natural sweetness of the papaya is very slightly reduced, and a certain smokiness fills in the gap.

Perhaps this is a more sophisticated taste. But sophisticated or not, it adds a new dimension that many will find attractive.

The new dimension

The look is certainly different -- and it is looking good.

Squeeze some of the grilled lime juice on this.

So simple, and what a treat. Dig in! Who could resist?


Alternatively, we can pare off the skin and slice the flesh up into bite-size pieces.

This has the advantage that the lime juice has a chance to coat the papaya flesh more thoroughly.

If you like the lime juice, this is the thing to do.

Parting facts about papaya

Native to the Central America region, apparently, including northern South America. Another name for papaya is pawpaw. Flesh color can vary from reddish to yellow, depending on the variety. It is such a popular fruit that it has been taken to almost all tropical regions and has become naturalized -- start in the Caribbean and keep going east, not forgetting the lower part of Florida; Africa, India (now the leading producer), SE Asia, tropical SW China, Indonesia, Australia, Hawaii, San Diego and Orange counties in the US. Many of us were particularly fond of the variety grown in Hawaii, compact fruits with a marvelous intense flavor. This variety, however, fell victim to Papaya Ringspot Virus (PRV) in 1998, a virus which among other thngs altered the taste significantly. Hawaii was forced to introduce a genetically modified variety. To my mind it is delicious, though not quite so delicious as the original. Papaya plants are sexual, you might even say bisexual. There are males, females and hermaphrodytes. Only the last of these produces edible fruit, so papaya agriculture centers around these. You will find papaya in meat tenderizers, as the fruit (and the tree's latex) contains an enzyme useful in tenderization. Unripened papayas, called green papaya, have many culinary uses, from salads to curries to stews. It is quite a fruit, don't you think?


Real meal

Real Meal. Unlike fancy food mags, where images are hyped and food itself is secondary, all pix shown here are from a real meal, prepared and eaten by me and my friends. No throwing anything away till perfection is achieved. This is the real deal --- a Real Meal.


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