Papaya trees were discovered in 1541 by the Spanish explorer Hernando Desoto, on an excursion to the Mississippi Valley, and he sent samples of this plant to Europe.
William Bartram in 1776 stated in his botanical book, Travels, that he found papaya trees growing in the Alatamaha River in Georgia and in eastern Florida, which he described as ‘Annona incarna’, the name was later updated by modern taxonomists . “The fruit the size of a small cucumber…containing a yellow flesh the consistency of hard custard, and a very delicious and wholesome food.”
This fruit has a pleasant flavor and is considered the largest native fruit in North America. Papaya trees are said to be endangered or threatened in the states of New York and New Jersey, in the forests where it grows naturally.
The papaya tree grows in most of the eastern United States as a native tree. Mature papaya trees produce fruit 2″ wide by 10″ long, looking and tasting much like a banana. The fruit is liked by most people and can be purchased at many outdoor markets in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, etc. Papaya flesh has the consistency of creamy custard and can be eaten raw, baked, or as a pie filling. The trees grow to around 15 feet tall and have been known to produce up to 60 pounds of papayas per tree. Some individual papayas weigh up to a pound each. Areas 5-10
Much interest has recently been directed toward research and development of improved varieties of papaya at universities in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio. The large fruit is not well known in much of the United States, but its exotic flavor and shape make it a candidate for the potential expansion of specialty fruit markets in the future. Taste it once fresh and you’ll feel compelled to have some of these papaya trees growing in your personal garden.
One of the world’s great horticultural mysteries is: why have most of the papaya trees, which were abundant in early US forests, virtually disappeared from their natural habitat today? That answer may lie within the results of research (Peterson 1991), which showed that papaya is sensitive to ultraviolet light, therefore papaya seedlings may not grow back after forests have been cleared. harvested, and there are very few virgin forests left in the United States. Pawpaws can be found growing there abundantly, but once the woods are cleared, Pawpaws will generally not re-establish themselves.
These experiments should be clearly remembered when ordering your paw trees. They should be planted in partial shade from other trees, however you can plant your papaya trees outdoors, if the trees are grown under a shade cloth for a couple of seasons. The tree will lose its sensitivity to full sunlight once it is established and the shade cloth can be discarded.
Some gardeners wish to plant their papaya trees in pots for a couple of years under shady conditions, but this is not necessary if the above guidelines are followed. Since papaya trees have tap roots, growth will be slow for the first year, but very rapid growth will occur after that.
Papaya leaves are large and that large leaf surface usually indicates a need for large amounts of moisture in the soil and therefore papayas are generally found in greatest numbers near river floodplains. Leaves or other composted organic materials are very beneficial for paws.
The skin on the feet of the paws is thin and edible and can range in color from a light green to a golden yellow. Most people prefer to eat papaya after it becomes soft to the touch. The custard-like pulp tastes like bananas and ranges in color from white to deep orange. The seeds are few and large, so papayas are easy to eat raw.
Most potato chips are sold at roadside markets, because the shelf life is short. Commercially, papaya is important in juices, pies, cakes, custard, ice cream, and other processed products.
The papaya tree was voted by Better Homes and Gardens, in 2000, as the landscape tree of the year. Papaya and the papaya tree are loaded with health-promoting extracts. The bark contains fluids that demonstrate antitumor properties and have been used over the years to combat scarlet fever and red skin rashes. These papaya tree extracts are very useful as an organic insecticide (pesticide).
Papaya fruits are rich in minerals like magnesium, copper, zinc, iron, manganese, potassium, and phosphorous. The fruit also contains abundant concentrations of vitamin C, protein and its amino acid derivatives.
There are several grafted cultivars of paw paw, but their range of adaptation is very narrow, and many cultivars that produce bumper, large-fruited crops in Kentucky, Indiana, or West Virginia do not perform satisfactorily in Georgia, Florida, Carolina, or Alabama. Consider purchasing improved papaya trees, which appear to be more universally adaptable. Try some of these trees in your garden for a real treat.