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Papaya as a survival food.

Papaya is a tropical fruit with a soft texture and an orange color. It is packed with nutrients and vitamins, and some would even call it a superfood. Papayas are high in fiber and loaded with critical nutrients like vitamins C and A. A small serving of papaya (100g) has 43 calories and provides 68% of your daily vitamin C and 32% of your daily vitamin A. If you can get past the initial, sometimes unpleasant smell, you are in for a treat.

According to Papaya Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits (, papayas offer a long list of potential Health Benefits due to their high nutrient content. Papayas' potent antioxidant vitamins keep your cells healthy and protected from damage.

Improves Skin

Vitamin C is a precursor that our bodies use to manufacture collagen. Because collagen is a critical component required for skin integrity, getting enough vitamin C improves your skin's ability to repair itself. Our bodies depend on vitamin C to build strong connective tissues and heal properly from wounds. Papaya is an easy way to reach your daily goals.

Protects Vision

Beta carotene is the form of vitamin A consumed in fruits, vegetables, and some protein foods. Vitamin A is critical for good vision, and papayas are an excellent source. You may have heard that carrots are good for your eyes. Still, studies show that the beta carotene in papayas is three times more bioavailable (i.e., easy to absorb) than in carrots or tomatoes.

Adequate beta-carotene intake has reduced the risk and severity of disease progression for people with the beginning stages of age-related macular degeneration. Because vitamin A supplements can cause toxicity (since vitamin A is stored in the body and can build up to unsafe levels), food sources like papaya are a safe, healthy way to get this beneficial micronutrient.

Aids Digestion

Like most fruits and vegetables, papayas are rich in fiber, which is essential for good digestion. Beyond this fundamental benefit, papayas also contain the enzyme papain, which helps break down proteins. If you have difficulty chewing or digesting meat, tenderizing it with papain before cooking makes it easier to eat.

Papain has also been studied for its ability to assist with gluten digestion in people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. When provided an enzyme mixture derived from papayas and microorganisms, symptoms of gluten intolerance were shown to improve with no adverse side effects.

Supports Heart Health

The fiber in papayas helps support heart health. Eating enough fiber (primarily through fruits and vegetables) decreases the risk of heart disease. Fiber also increases satiety, which can help with healthy weight management. Papayas also provide potassium, magnesium, and pantothenic acid, all contributing to cardiovascular health.

Helps Prevent Cancer

Consuming plant-based foods that are high in fiber is a well-established dietary pattern associated with cancer prevention. Furthermore, the combination of vitamins A, C, and E in papayas provides powerful antioxidant effects that may reduce free radicals and cancer risk.

Our family had never even tasted papaya, but a local homesteader in our Facebook Group, Hernando County Homesteading, gifted us a few seedlings. The great benefit of that community is that we barter and share with each other out of a love for homesteading. If you have learned anything about me on this journey, it is that I can't say no to free things, and I am always up for a new challenge or adventure. My thirst to learn all the blessings life can offer has fueled me since I was a kid. So, we accepted those free seedlings and planned a good home for them in our food forest. After some research, we planted them toward the back of our yard so they could grow nice and tall without shade from larger trees. They are tropical-looking plants that produce beautiful leaves, so they fit nicely into our landscape. Homesteading can be pretty if planned out well. Once the seedlings became small trees about 2 feet high, we decided it was time to give them a forever home.

We used a unique planting method: we buried a long 4" PVC pipe about 8" under the root system at an angle. We left the bottom end open, and the top end was covered with a removable cap. The tree was planted, and we began to water the tree through the pipe instead of from the topsoil. This helps to force the root system down toward the bottom of the pipe to find the water. It gave the plant a better foundation to stay strong through the Florida winter cold and summer hurricane winds. We had no loss through either season, and they continued to produce fruit from fall to spring. Our trees produced an average of 40 fruits each.

I experimented with using the fruit before it ripened (green fruit) in savory dishes like you would a squash. I made green papaya sauerkraut and pickled papaya. The ripe fruit is a delicious treat when nice and cold but only lasts in the fridge a few days after cutting it up. Freezing the cubes will be a great addition to smoothies or for future jam and jelly making. Finding a recipe for papaya jam produced an abundance of goodness to give as gifts and to add to my food storage. I found that even if someone doesn't like the taste of papaya, they love the jam. Using the dried black seeds from the ripe papaya as a pepper substitute was a unique way to utilize the whole fruit. And my chickens and rabbit loved the rhine and any overripe fruit I couldn't process in time.

Our family has found a whole new food that we never considered as a family staple until that kind of gift from a local homesteader. I would love to mail you some papaya seeds or even gift you a seedling if you are in my local area. Just email me a request and let me know how you liked this blog post, and the pleasure will be all mine.

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