EVERYTHING you didn’t Know about Papaya – Complete Guide

Did you know papaya can yield fruit all year round? It is a crop preferred for being a high-yielding plant with continuous production. In addition, its exquisite sweet taste and nutritional properties make it one of the most popular fruits among consumers.

In this blog, you’ll learn how papaya is grown, what varieties exist, its effects on our body, where it originated, how it is found in the world industry, how it reproduces, and what products are made from papaya. If you want to know all this, read on!  

What is papaya and what are its characteristics? 

Scientific nameCarica Papaya
Common namePapaya, pump fruit, melon, sapote melon, milkweed, chamburo, among others.
Place of OriginAmerica
HabitatTropical and Subtropical continent
DistributionTropical areas worldwide

Characteristics of papaya 

The papaya belongs to the Caricaceae family, plants belonging to this family are characterized by being giant herbaceous plants that can be confused with trees.

Let us explain here all the botanical characteristics of this plant so that you can better understand it.

Papaya plant

Papaya stem 

The stem of papaya is unique. It usually has no branches, and when it does, they are few. The fruit is cylindrical and hollow on the inside. As I mentioned before, papaya is an herbaceous plant, but why? You see, its stem is not woody enough in its bark for the papaya to be considered a tree. On the contrary, the stem is soft and short-lived.

The height of the stem can vary based on environmental conditions, the quality of the crop, and the age of the plant, but can reach approximately 8 to 10 meters in height. As the plant ages, this part becomes gray with some scars left by leaves that fall off as they wither or dry out over time.

Papaya roots 

The root system of this fruit is composed of primary and secondary roots. The primary root grows vertically, reaching up to 1-meter-deep and extending its radius up to 1.80 meters. The secondary roots detach from the main root, are white or beige in color, can reach 80 to 90 cm deep, and are responsible for feeding the plant by absorbing water and other nutrients.

Papaya leaves 

The leaves of this fruit are in continuous development. They are composed of two main sections, the first is the petiole, which in simple words can be said to be the stem of the leaf. It can be straight or slightly curved, measuring from 40 cm to 120 cm long. The second is the blade or leaf as such, it is green and can be 25 to 75 cm long.

In addition, the leaves are lobed, meaning that the edges are not uniform but have rounded edges and protrusions. The papaya plant must have around 30 leaves to be considered healthy, old leaves can fall off naturally or are cut by growers.

Fun fact:

In ancient times, Indians wrapped animal meat in papaya leaves because this way they were able to soften and tenderize it.

Papaya flowers 

Papaya flowers grow at the base of the stem near the leaves. This type of plant can give the following 3 different types of flowers that are classified by their sex:

1. Female flowers: they can generate clusters of up to 5 flowers; however, of these, only 1 is capable of bearing fruit. This flower is the largest of all. It has 5 white petals and produces oval fruits.

2. Male flowers: they are small and have 5 white petals. They are characterized by having a tubular shape since they don’t open completely. In addition, this type of flower rarely bears fruit and if they do, the fruits have no commercial value.

3. Hermaphrodite flowers: they grow alone near the stem with a short pendulum (flower stalk) or in small clusters. They bear fruits with cylindrical, pear-shaped, or other uniform shapes.

What does the papaya fruit look like? 

The shape and weight of papayas vary depending on the type of flower from which they originate, but they can weigh approximately 400 g to 5 kg. The peel of this fruit is weak and thin and is green when the papaya is in an immature state, turning yellow or orange as it reaches maturity.

The center of the fruit is hollow and stores a large number of small seeds 2 mm in diameter. These have rounded shapes and are black in color. In addition, the pulp is soft with a sweet flavor and can have yellow to orange colors in pale or strong shades.

Varieties of papaya? 

There are many varieties of papaya, due to the reproduction by means of seeds that allow an easy crossbreeding of this species. New varieties of papaya are continuously appearing, here we’ll show you some of the most commercialized ones.

Solo papaya 

It is the best known and produced worldwide, this variety originated in Hawaii from a small fruit that was collected in a market in Barbados in 1910. It was named “solo” because the fruit is large enough for one person. In addition, this type of papaya has within it the following varieties:

Sunrise Papaya 

The plant that produces this fruit can be from 1 to 1.80 m high and starts its flowering process after three months of being cultivated. It starts to produce fruit when it is about 130 cm tall and has at least 25 leaves.

The “sunrise” papaya is 10 to 15 cm long and can weigh between 400 to 600 grams. The skin has a yellow-reddish color when ripe, the flesh is 2 cm thick, firm, orange with reddish tones, and has a sweet taste.

Sunset Papaya 

Similarly, the plant of this type of papaya is small to intermediate in size and starts flowering a month and a half after being cultivated.

Fruits vary in shape and size but can weigh approximately 540 grams. They have fairly resistant skin that allows easy handling in their collection, also the pulp is sweet and is colored between yellow and orange.

Kapoho Papaya 

The size of the plant is between small and medium, it starts flowering after 4 months of being planted.

It was found in the 1940s in the eastern part of the island of Hawaii, where the soils are volcanic or rocky, the temperature is warm all year round, the wind is mild and there is a lot of light intensity.  This plant has good resistance to rainy areas since dry climates produce even smaller papayas.

Papayas of this type are small, can be 7 to 8 cm in diameter, and weigh between 400 to 800 grams. The flesh is firm, sweet and yellow, and the skin is soft and delicate.

Waimanalo Papaya 

It was obtained in the 60s and 70s due to the crossing of different varieties. The plant is small in size and starts producing at short distances from the ground.

Waimanalo papayas are usually round and can weigh between 450 to 1100 grams. The peel is delicate and must be handled with care to avoid bruising. The flesh also has yellow and orange colors like the “sunset” papaya.

Papaya blue solo or blue stem solo 

This type of papaya is a hybrid because it was obtained by crossing other types of fruit.

The Blue solo variety produces large fruits that can weigh 1 to 2 kg or even more than 3 kg. The skin is highly resistant, which makes harvesting easier and the pulp is sweet orange in color.

Other types of solo papaya 

Other types of solo variety are:

  • Hawaiian Solo
  • Dwarf Solo or Dwarf Solo
  • Higgins Dolo or Line 17A
  • Wilder Solo or Line 25
  • Line 5
  • Line 8
  • Line 10
  • French Solo
  • Waikanae
  • Line 7
  • Line 9
  • Bush
  • Kariya

Cartagena Papaya 

This papaya variety originated in the Dominican Republic and is characterized by its high resistance to different types of soils, pests, and diseases. The plant begins to flower when it is at least 145 cm high and has 25 leaves on the stem.

The fruits of this variety are large in size, weighing from 1 to 5 kg. The pulp is about 2.5 cm thick, yellow and orange colored, and sweet tasting.

Cariflora Papaya 

This variety was developed at the University of Florida. It is small and the fruits grow at a short distance from the ground. The fruits have a rounded shape, are small because they weigh between 500 to 700 grams, and are up to 14 cm in diameter. A negative characteristic of the papaya cariflora is that its conservation is not prolonged after the harvest.

Other varieties of papaya

There are countless varieties, which are classified according to their place of origin, other varieties come from:

  • Cuba
  • Taiwan
  • Brazil
  • Barbados
  • Trinidad
  • Venezuela
  • Colombia
  • El Salvador
  • Mexico
  • Peru
  • Ecuador
  • Puerto Rico
  • Among others

Health benefits of papaya 

Papaya nutritional information 

Below, you can learn the nutritional information of 100 grams of papaya in a table extracted from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA, 2019).

Nutritional information about Papaya 
Serving: 100 grams of papaya 
Water88,1 grams
Energy43 calories
Protein0,47 grams
Total lipids (fats)0,26 grams
Carbohydrates10,8 grams
Fiber1,7 grams
Sugars7,82 grams
Saccharose0 grams
Glucose4,09 grams
Fructose3,73 grams
Lactose0 grams
Maltose0 grams
Galactose0 grams
Starch0 grams
Calcium20 milligrams
Iron0,25 grams
Magnesium21 milligrams
Phosphorus10 milligrams
Potassium182 milligrams
Sodium8 milligrams
Zinc0,08 milligrams
Copper0,045 milligrams
Magnesium0,04 milligrams
Selenium0,6 milligrams
Vitamin C60,9 milligrams
Thiamine0,023 milligrams
Riboflavin0,027 milligrams
Niacin0,357 milligrams
Vitamin B60,038 milligrams
Pantothenic acid0,191 micrograms
Folic acid0 micrograms
Vitamin A47 micrograms
Folate37 micrograms
Vitamin B120 micrograms
Cryptoxanthin, beta589 micrograms
Lycopene1830 micrograms
Lutein + Zeaxanthin89 micrograms
Vitamin E (alfa-tocoferol)0,3 micrograms
Vitamin K (Phylloquinone)2,6 micrograms
Total saturated fatty acids0,081 grams
Total monounsaturated fatty acids0,072 grams
Total polyunsaturated fatty acids0,058 grams
Cholesterol0 milligrams
Tryptophan0,008 grams
Threonine0,011 grams
Isoleucine0,008 grams
Leucine0,016 grams
Lysine0,025 grams
Methionine0,002 grams
Phenylalanine0,009 grams
Tyrosine0,005 grams
Valina0,01 grams
Arginine0,01 grams
Histidine0,005 grams
Alanine0,014 grams
Glutamic acid0,033 grams
Aspartic acid0,049 grams
Glycine0,018 grams
Proline0,01 grams
Serina0,015 grams

Benefits of papaya that you should know 

Is papaya good for digestive health? 

Yes. Papaya contains an enzyme called papain, which is appreciated for all its digestive properties because it helps the body to better digest the proteins that are consumed.

In addition, this fruit is high in fiber, so people suffering from constipation can regulate their digestive system by consuming papaya on a regular basis. In fact, the leaves are used to prepare a tea infusion that can have many benefits, among them it is used to treat chronic indigestion.

Does papaya help with cardiovascular disease? 

Yes, one of the main causes of cardiovascular diseases is a high cholesterol level. Oxidative processes that occur in the body help cholesterol to settle in the arteries and thus impede the proper circulation of the blood. Papaya acts as a mechanism that helps blood circulation in the body, so it is of benefit to people with high cholesterol levels.

Does papaya help to regulate menstruation? 

Yes. According to the International Research Journal of Engineering and Rechnology (INJERT,2021), some studies have found that regular consumption of papaya can help the muscles of the uterus contract, an action that occurs during menstruation to help expel the lining of the uterus. In addition, papaya is rich in carotenes, and what do they do? Carotenes help and stimulate the hormone called estrogen which induces menstruation and helps the body to regulate it.

What effects have papaya on the skin? 

Papaya is rich in antioxidants such as lycopene; aging and skin damage occur when there is an excess of free radicals that damage molecules in the body. These antioxidants help defend the body making the skin look smooth and slowing the signs of aging.

Other benefits of papaya 

Other benefits that papaya has on the human body according to the book “Health benefits of papaya – for cooking and healing” are:

  • It strengthens the immune system as it has high vitamin C content.
  • It helps with weight loss, as it is low in calories.
  • It improves eye health.
  • It promotes bone health thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.

History and origin of papaya 

The exact origin of the papaya is uncertain, there are different theories about the specific place where this plant originated, although all agree that its origin was in the American continent. The first theory says that the papaya originated in the Andes and the Amazon region shared by Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.

The second theory says that the papaya originated in the tropical areas between Mexico and Panama. Other theories state that the fruit arose in the Caribbean islands or that the fruit was found throughout the American tropics.

In the 16th century, Fernandez de Oviedo documented for the first time the existence of papaya; Spaniards called it “papaya de los pájaros” or “higos de mastuerzo” (papaya of the birds). Since then, the Spanish colonizers tried to cultivate papaya in the countries of Panama, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the island of Hispaniola.

Its introduction to the Asian continent happened in the 18th century when the seeds were transported from the Caribbean island of the Moluccas to India. Then from the aforementioned island and later from the Philippines, it was distributed throughout Asia and the South Pacific region.

In addition, it is said that in the Marquesas Islands the Spanish explorer and farmer Francisco Marin brought papaya seeds to Hawaii at the beginning of the 19th century. Today, papayas are grown in all tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world.

Papaya industry in the world 

Top 10 papaya producers 

The global production of papaya is around 14 million tons. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the 10 countries that produced the most of this fruit in 2020 are:

  1. India is the largest producer of papaya in the world, with a production of 6’011,000 tons; however, this amount had a small reduction, as in 2019 they produced 6’050,000 tons.
  2. On the contrary, Dominican Republic increased its production from 1’176,453 in 2019 to 1’271,303 tons produced in 2020. In fact, papaya is in second place among the 10 most produced foods in this country.
  3. Brazil, like the Dominican Republic, increased its production from 1’171,026 tons in 2019 to 1’235,003 in 2020.
  4. Mexico had a production of 1’117,437 in 2020.
  5. Indonesia, on the other hand, went from producing 986,991 tons of papaya in 2019, to producing 1’016,388 in 2020.
  6. Nigeria decreased its production, in 2019 the country produced 881,828 tons of fruit, in 2020 this figure had a dropped, as they produced 877,120 tons.
  7. The Democratic Republic of Congo remained stable in both years with only a slight decrease. In 2019 they produced 210,592 tons and in 2020 they produced 210,000.
  8. In 2020, Colombia managed to be positioned within the top 10 countries that produced the fruit; in 2019 it was not within the ranking. Colombians produced a total of 194,332 tons of papaya in 2020.
  9. Peru had a significant increase in production. In 2019 Peruvians produced 166,180 tons and in 2020 they produced 186,508.
  10. Thailand had a production of 164,360 tons.

Which countries export the most papaya? 

The export of papaya in the world has been increasing in recent years. To begin with, you can see a table with the 10 countries that exported the most tons of this fruit in 2020 according to FAO:

PositionCountryExported amount in tons
1 °Mexico167.356
2 °Guatemala55.204
3 °Brazil43.708
4 °Malaysia22.487
5 °United States of America14.860
6 °Sri Lanka13.272
7 °Continental China10.894
8 °The Netherlands9.323
9 °India7.346
10 °Philippines5.746

Fun fact:

Mexico, besides being the fourth largest producer of papaya in the world, is also the largest exporter. The crops where about 80% of papaya production takes place are located in the southeast of the country, these are Oaxaca, Veracruz, Tabasco, Chiapas, Michoacán, and Yucatan.

Now get to know the ranking provided by FAO of the largest papaya exporters according to the monetary value calculated in U.S. dollars corresponding to the year 2020:

PositionCountryExported amount in tons
1 °Mexico167.356
2 °Brazil55.204
3 °Guatemala43.708
4 °The Netherlands22.487
5 °United States of America14.860
6 °Continental China13.272
7 °Spain10.894
8 °Germany9.323
9 °Malaysia7.346
10 °Sri Lanka5.746

Fun fact:

Brazil is not only the third largest producer of papaya, but it is also one of the countries that export most of this fruit worldwide. The main reason for this is the warm climate in different regions; for example, Espirito Santo and other states located in the northeastern part of the country are among the most important producers of these fruits.

Which countries import more papaya? 

The country that imports papayas the most, in fact, has been so for a long time. This is the ranking of the countries that import the most papaya worldwide in number of tons.

  1. United States of America: 189.706
  2. Singapore: 21,883
  3. Canada: 17,899
  4. El Salvador: 16,035
  5. United Arab Emirates: 14,893
  6. Germany: 12,503
  7. Portugal: 10,466
  8. Netherlands: 10,034
  9. South Africa: 9,201
  10. Spain: 6,966

Fun fact:

The United Arab Emirates charges a 0 % duty rate for the import of this tropical fruit.

How is papaya grown? 

To grow papaya, certain conditions must be taken into account in order for the crops to be productive. These characteristics are:


The optimum temperatures to grow papaya are around 22 to 26 °C, although it can grow in areas with temperatures between 15 to 33 °C, but these are not the most recommended. This plant can even grow in climates of 38 °C, but the production of fruit is significantly delayed.

It is also discouraged to plant these fruits in temperatures below 20 °C, as they do not allow the plant to flower, and the fruits obtained at harvest are small and tasteless.

The papaya plant is extremely sensitive to cold, when in contact with 0 °C its photosynthesis is not the same due to the damage caused to the leaves. If the plant is exposed to this temperature for a prolonged period of time, it can die. In fact, if it comes into contact with -4 °C temperatures, even for a short period of time, the plant also dies.

Altitude, rainfall, and wind 

The optimum altitude for this plant is 0 to 200 meters above sea level. In fact, it can be cultivated at altitudes up to 1,000 meters above sea level; however, the fruits at these altitudes are less sweet and can have a poor flavor.

The plant should receive between 800 to 2,000 mm of rainfall throughout the year. If this is not the case, it should be supplemented by water irrigation to help flowering and fruiting. It should also have a minimum relative humidity of 60% and a maximum of 85% because this can promote the development of diseases or pests.

Papaya plants can withstand winds up to 80 km/h if they have a robust root system, but it is recommended to plant these fruits in areas with gentle winds and not at high speeds in order to prevent them from uprooting the entire plant.


The papaya plant adapts well to any type of soil, yet heavy and poorly aerated soils are to be avoided altogether. Therefore, soils that are well drained, well aerated, deep, with high amounts of organic matter and preferably with loam or sandy loam textures are recommended.

The recommended soil pH must be 6.2 to 6.8, although it can be produced in soils with a pH of 5 to 8; less than 6 is not recommended because the plant may have an excess of magnesium.

In addition, it is highly to moderately sensitive to salinity, so it is advised not to irrigate with water containing high salt content, as it is very likely that the seeds will not germinate, delay the growth of the plant or even cause its death.

Propagation of papaya 

To propagate papayas, the preferred method is propagation by seeds: it is a fast, easy and economical strategy since the fruit contains lots of seeds.

  1. Healthy and productive plants with good size and uniform fruits are chosen.
  2. The seeds are removed from the fruits.
  3. They are washed and dried for 3 to 4 days.

With this method, the seeds can germinate within 15 to 30 days after planting.

Papaya harvesting 

Papaya harvesting is dictated by the intended use of the fruit. When they are destined for export, it is preferable to cut them while they are still green, that is, immature because these fruits have the capacity to complete their ripening process without being on the plant.

Growers must have all their equipment clean and disinfected to start harvesting papayas. Normally, this is done in teams of two people, one person cuts the pendulum that holds the fruit to the stem, and the second wrap the fruit in some type of material such as newspaper, and places it in the basket.

Post-harvest and conservation of papaya 

Once all the papayas have been harvested, the best fruits are selected; those that have no imperfections or damage are selected so that they are suitable for marketing. They are then washed and disinfected to remove any dirt they may have.

When they are collected while they are still unripe, they undergo a hydrothermal process in which they are heated to accelerate the ripening process. They must be completely dry to be stored to avoid the development of fungi. They are packed in some type of wrapping to avoid rubbing the fruit because this can cause the loss of the peel.

Finally, for transportation, a cold chain must be maintained with cold rooms that have temperatures between 10 to 12 °C, in order to maintain the good condition of the papayas.

What products are made from papaya? 

Handmade papaya products 

Papaya is a versatile fruit that is used in a homemade form to make different foods such as juices or jams, but there are also companies that commercialize handmade food products made from papaya that are in some cases free of chemicals. Some of these products are:

  • Juices
  • Jams
  • Syrups
  • Bonbons
  • Jams
  • Candies like gummies
  • Among others

Industrial papaya products 

Papaya can have different industrial uses not only in food products but also in other industries. The reason is that papaya contains an enzyme called papain that is used to make some non-food products such as:

  • Meat tenderizers.
  • Softeners for chewing gum.
  • Softeners for textiles such as wool and silk.
  • It is used in the tanning of skins (a process in which animal skins are converted into materials such as leather).
  • It is used in the brewing industry to improve malt.
  • It is used in the rubber industry

Some of the food products made from papaya are:

  • After-meal supplements.
  • Dehydrated papaya pieces.
  • Other supplements such as papaya powder.

Papaya cosmetic products 

Papaya has different benefits on the skin; for example, it contains papain that helps reduce inflammation; vitamin A that can be used in treatments for different skin conditions such as acne. In addition, the beta-carotene, phytochemicals, and other vitamins in papaya can help lighten skin tone and dark spots.

For these reasons, this fruit is used to make different cosmetic products such as:

  • Papaya seed oil
  • Exfoliating scrubs
  • Facial creams
  • Natural body soaps
  • Facial soaps
  • Body creams
  • Face masks
  • Among others

To conclude, papaya has been used since ancient times, including medicinal purposes and others, as you have seen throughout this blog.

We invite you to consume more of this fruit in all its presentations and obtain its benefits.