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Green Thai Papaya
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Green Thai papayas widely vary in size, ranging from 15-50 centimeters in length and 10-20 centimeters in diameter, and are oval and elongated in shape. The thin skin is smooth, slightly waxy, firm, and green. Underneath the surface, the flesh is crisp, white with pale green edging, and dense with a central seed cavity filled with white pith and many inedible seeds. When raw, Green Thai papayas are crunchy with a very mild and neutral taste similar to the flavor of jicama or cucumber.
Green Thai papayas are available year-round in tropical climates.
Green Thai papayas, botanically classified as Carica papaya, are elongated berries that grow on a large herb reaching 6-9 meters in height and belong to the Caricaceae family. There are many elongated papaya varieties that are labeled as Green Thai papayas in the market, including Khaek Dam, Coco, and Holland papayas. There are also many variations of these main varieties that have been open-pollinated in fields over time and are still sold under the same name. Green Thai papayas are the immature, young versions of the fruit and are favored for their crisp texture, fast-growing nature, and neutral flavor allowing it to pair well with stronger spices and flavors in culinary applications.
Green Thai papayas are a good source of vitamins A and C and also contain folate, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.
Green Thai papayas are best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as boiling or sautéing. The fruits are most well-known for their use in som tan, which is a Thai salad that mixes Green Thai papaya with fish sauce, lime, chile, garlic, and varying vegetables. Green Thai papaya can also be added to stews, pickled for extended use, grated, fried, and mixed with small shrimp to make okoy, or cooked into sour curries such as gaeng som. In Thailand, Green papaya is also blended into soups and is heavily spiced with chiles as the fruit has minimal flavor and showcases other spices. Green Thai papaya pairs well with long beans, carrots, daikon radish, chiles, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, green onions, shallots, turmeric, and peanuts. The unripe fruits will keep for a couple of days at room temperature but will then begin to ripen. Once ripe, papayas will keep up to one week when stored in the refrigerator.
In Thailand, papaya is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties and is used medicinally to help cleanse the digestive system. The leaves and sap are also used in traditional medicine to reduce the itchiness of insect bites and general swelling in the body. In addition to topical use, dried leaves are commonly steeped into a tea and are believed to stimulate digestion. Elongated papaya varieties are often seen in markets sold in slender pieces, stored over ice, so locals can buy the pieces daily as needed. Many Thai families also grow papaya in their home gardens to utilize the fruits, leaves, and sap year-round in medicinal and culinary applications.
Papaya is believed to be native to tropical America and was introduced to Thailand over three-hundred years ago. Since then, many varieties of papaya have been created and cultivated in Thailand and are often sold in both green and mature states under generic names in the market. Today Green Thai papayas are found in local markets in Thailand and are also found at select specialty grocers throughout Asia and Southeast Asia.