With their delectably sweet interior, papayas are great in an assortment of recipes including salads, smoothies, jams, and even milkshakes. This delicious fruit offers a number of health benefits when incorporated into your daily diet. Although papayas taste best when they are fresh, you can also store and savor them at a later time. Since they tend to be less common than other tropical fruits, you may be wondering how to store papaya.
We’re here to help! Generally speaking, papayas can rest for about three days on the counter if they are not fully ripe. Then, a ripe unpeeled papaya can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Alternatively, if you plan to cut your papaya and freeze them for up to a year or dry it using a dehydrator. Dried papaya can be set aside for short or long-term storage.
Continue reading for our comprehensive guide on all there is to know about this tasty tropical fruit, including what exactly a papaya is, how to determine if a papaya is ripe, and all the ways that you can store your papayas – for both short and long-term.
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What Is Papaya?
Native to Mexico and South America, papaya can be found in various tropical locations around the world. It is also a very common crop in the Hawaiian Islands. The trees that papayas grow on thrive in direct sunlight and areas with higher average moisture levels. Once the skin of the papaya fruit becomes a yellow-green color, it is harvested. As papaya ripens, it turns yellow.
The fleshy interior of the papaya is typically orange, though there are varieties that are red or pink in color. Black seeds are also found inside, which are edible; the skin of the papaya, however, is not. The average papaya that you’ll find at the grocery store is around six inches in length and weighs two pounds or less. However, the fruit can weigh up to 20 pounds.
To access the flesh and seeds of the papaya, it must be cut open. It can be eaten raw or cooked, though the green papaya must be cooked prior to eating and is very common in many Asian cuisines. In fact, many recipes call for green papaya, which is essentially a papaya that is not completely ripe. It has seeds that are usually white and is used more like a vegetable than a fruit.
Other common names for the papaya are tree melon, mamao, and pawpaw.
How to Determine if a Papaya is Ripe
Before we dive into the various storage methods for papaya, it’s important to be able to determine whether or not the fruit is ripe. When you’re out shopping for papaya, pay close attention to the skin color of the fruit. A papaya is only ripe when the skin starts to appear yellow on the exterior. Fortunately, you should have no trouble finding papaya in your local supermarket year-round.
It’s important to note that there are two main types of papaya: Hawaiian and Mexican. The Hawaiian variety is the one that you’ll likely find at your grocery store. It typically weighs around a pound, while Mexican papayas are much bigger, heavier, and can weigh close to 20 pounds. With that said, you’ll want to consider both color and feel when you’re looking for a ripe papaya:
- Color: If the papaya is primarily green, it is unripe. However, if the fruit has a combination of green and yellow (or yellowish-orange), it is almost ripe. When a papaya is mainly yellow or orange in color it is perfectly ripe!
- Feel: When ripe, papayas should give slightly under tender pressure (similar to a mango). If the papaya is still very firm to the touch, it is not ready yet.
How to Store Unripe Papaya
The storage method that you choose ultimately comes down to when you plan on using the unripe papaya. Perhaps you want to eat it as soon as possible, or you’re not in a rush. Whatever your plan may be, the following are all the ways that you can store unripe papaya:
- Let your papaya rest on the counter at room temperature. If you’re in no rush to consume the papaya, you can leave it to rest on a flat surface in an area where they will remain at room temperature. This works best for papaya that is almost ripe – partially yellow in color. Leave the papaya for about three days, or until the fruit is yellow. It’s important that you do not eat green papaya raw, as the plant naturally contains latex.
- Speed up the ripening process by placing the papaya in a brown paper bag. This is a proven method for reducing the time it takes for some fruits to ripen. Simply wrap the papaya in a paper bag and leave it to sit in a dry place. However, make sure that you keep a close eye on your papaya so it doesn’t become overripe.
- Add in some bananas. The quickest way to ripen a papaya is to add a banana or two into the paper bag with it. Bananas naturally produce an enzyme that can help many other fruits, papaya included, speed up their ripening process. Though, you’ll want to check the bag around two to three times a day to ensure that it doesn’t overripe.
Short-Term Papaya Storage
Once papaya is ripe, the ideal storage temperature is between 54- and 57-degrees Fahrenheit. However, most individuals don’t have a storage space that can maintain that specific temperature. Therefore, the refrigerator is the next best option for storing ripe papaya. If, instead, you leave the fruit at room temperature, it has a high risk of turning over-ripe very quickly. Here’s all the ways that you can use your refrigerator for short term papaya storage:
- For peeled and cut papaya, use airtight containers. If you peel and cut the fruit after it has ripened, it’s best to keep it in an airtight container and put it in your fridge. Make sure that you also remove the seeds before you place the cut fruit into the desired container. When stored this way, the papaya should last about a week before it should be discarded.
- For unpeeled and uncut papayas, store uncovered in the refrigerator. On the other hand, if you do not cut into the papaya after it has ripened, you can place it directly into your fridge uncovered. This method allows you to store the fruit for a longer period of time. When stored this way, the papaya will last in the fridge for approximately three weeks.
However, if you want a more long-term solution for storing papaya, you can freeze it or dehydrate it.
Quick Tip: Although papaya seeds should not be eaten alongside the rest of the fruit’s interior, their peppery flavor can be used for other cooking purposes. In fact, the seeds are great for tenderizing meat.
Long-Term Papaya Storage
If you want to store cut papaya longer than about a week or uncut papaya longer than three weeks, consider freezing or dehydrating it. Here’s how it’s done:
If you want to freeze papaya in order to enjoy it for a much longer period of time, follow these steps:
- First, wash and peel the papaya. Begin by giving the papaya a good rinse and clean under running water. Then, remove the skin using a produce peeler. To peel off the skin more efficiently, move in long, even strokes. Set the peels to the side so they can be disposed of later.
- Slice the papaya into cubes. Once the fruit is peeled, cut it in half so that the center is exposed. Next, take a spoon and use it to scoop out the seeds. This should be done prior to chopping up the papaya. Then, cut papaya in half a second time and follow by cutting it into half-inch chunks. Alternatively, you can use a melon baller to scoop out the fleshy interior and simplify the freezer storage.
- Place the papaya cubes into an airtight container or bag and freeze for up to a year. Put a handful of the papaya cubes or balls into a freezer-safe bag or other airtight container. Do your best to bag them as compactly as possible, limiting the space that the fruit takes up in your freezer. Once all of the fruit pieces are in containers, place them into the freezer and use the papaya within a year.
If you want to freeze the papaya cubes or balls prior to bagging them up, you can place them on a cookie sheet first. Put the cookie sheet into the freezer for about a day, or until the pieces are completely frozen. Then, transfer to a freezer-safe bag or airtight container and put back into the freezer.
Another option for long-term papaya storage is to dehydrate the fruit, which can then be enjoyed for up to a month or longer depending on how you store it after it has been dehydrated. Follow these steps to dehydrate your papaya:
- Clean and peel the papaya. Start by giving the papaya a good rinse under cool running water and then remove the skin using a produce peeler. Work in long, even strokes and move from right to left or left to right to take off all of the skin. Set aside or dispose of the papaya peels as you work.
- Cut the papaya into half-inch-long strips. Once the fruit has been peeled, use a sharp knife to slice the papaya into strips that are roughly the same thickness as jerky. To maximize the space in your dehydrator, cut the fruit into half-inch-long pieces. Alternatively, if you prefer bite-sized pieces, you can cut the papaya smaller. However, the thicker the piece, the longer it will take to dry in the dehydrator.
- Place the papaya strips onto the dehydrator racks. Lay each piece of papaya next to one another on the racks so that they are side by side and do not overlap. Overlapping pieces will slow down the drying process. Also, avoid placing other fruits in the dehydrator with the papaya to simplify the process.
- Set the dehydrator to 135 degrees Fahrenheit and let the papaya pieces dry for 12 hours. Keep the dehydrator at 135 degrees Fahrenheit for the whole 12 hours. Then, check on the papaya. Depending on the batch, it may take up to 24 hours for the slices to dry out completely. When it’s ready, the papaya will appear leathery.
- Set aside the papaya pieces for short-term or long-term storage. Remove the strips from the dehydrator and let them cool for a couple of minutes before you place them in individual containers. For short-term storage, you can put the pieces into a sealed jar on the counter for a month. If you want to store the papaya longer, consider vacuum sealing the pieces and then freezing them.
Quick Tip: To prevent the papaya from becoming too dry, spray the strips with a bit of lemon juice before you place them into the dehydrator.