Papaya and papaya milk

Source: Wikipedia

Do you like to drink papaya milk? In Taiwan, there is a lot of papaya milk in the cold drinking houses and fruit juice stalls in the streets and alleys. However, papaya is more than papaya milk. In some vacant lots in Taiwan, there is often a papaya plant with many fruits, as if it should belong here.

Although papaya is so common, like many Taiwanese fruits, it is an exotic product. The official name of papaya is “fān mù ɡuā”(literally meaning “barbarian’s papaya”), which is a herbaceous dicotyledonous plant from the papaya family in tropical America. The Mayans in Central America started planting papaya about four thousand years ago. Wild papaya was originally dioecious — that means, there are male and female trees. However, when the Mayans were planting papaya, they accidentally discovered that there are monoecious papaya, because the monoecious plant can bear fruit for sure, so the Mayans saved the monoecious papaya…So now most of the papaya in the orchard is monoecious, a small part is the mother tree, and the male tree is rare.

It was not until the 17th century that papaya was introduced to China from tropical America, and Taiwan was not introduced from Hawaii until 1903. Papaya was only used as feed at the beginning, and it was really used as a fruit five years later. In 2016, Taiwan produced 3.36 million tons of papaya, of which more than a quarter was produced by Tainan City alone! The second place is Nantou County and the third place is Chiayi County. The world’s largest producer of papaya is India, followed by Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and Dominican Republic. The papaya produced in India, Brazil and Mexico alone account for 60% of the world’s papaya production. The papaya produced in India accounts for 43% of the world.

Papaya is rich in vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Cut the oval-shaped berries of the papaya, carefully scrape off the seeds with a spoon, and then you can eat it alone with a spoon! Papayas are delicious when eaten directly, but after the dairy industry in Taiwan began to develop in the late 1950s, people in Taichung and Changhua successively thought of putting papaya and milk in a juicer to make papaya milk. The sweet and delicious taste of papaya milk swept across Taiwan, so you can see papaya milk from south to north! But if you want to make it by yourself, because papain (enzyme) will digest the proteins in it, turn it into small, bitter-tasting peptides, which make the papaya milk bitter, so you better drink it as soon as you finish making it.

Both papain and bromelain (enzyme from pineapples) can be used to break down proteins, which will make the meat tender. Generally, the tender meat essence on the market is either papain or bromelain. But because the content of papain is very low in mature fruits, you don’t have to worry about eating papaya will make your tongue tingy.

When it comes to papain, everyone is familiar with the term “green papaya is a breast enhancement”! Does green papaya really have breast enhancement effects? The industry often tells everyone that papaya contains papain and vitamin A to show that papaya has the effect of breast enhancement, but papain can only break down proteins, while vitamin A only has the effect of maintaining immune function and vision, and it is even more unlikely to have breast enhancement effect. Don’t be fooled.

When it comes to papaya, one cannot fail to mention the papaya ringspot virus. It first appeared in Yanchao District, Kaohsiung City in 1975, and it spread across Taiwan in just two to three years, causing great losses to fruit farmers. At that time, in order to solve the problem of ringspot virus, the Fengshan Experimental Branch bred Tainong №5 papaya, which is resistant to ringspot virus, and Knownyou Seedling Company, also bred “Knownyou №1,” that is resistant to ringspot virus, and National Chung Hsing University Professor Yeh, Shyi-Dong has even developed a genetically-modified papaya that is resistant to the ringspot virus.

The papaya, which seems to grow everywhere in Taiwan, is also an exotic species. It is really amazing to think about that! However, Taiwan has been an important base for sea voyages since ancient times. From China, Spain, Portugal to the Netherlands, and Japan, there are so many different countries passing by with records alone. When you come to Taiwan, you will inevitably bring some hometown flavors. This has created Taiwan’s reputation as the “Fruit Kingdom”, just take a closer look… It turns out that the “Fruit Kingdom” is supported by imported products!

Last but not least: Since the papaya eaten as a fruit is actually called “barbarian’s papaya”, is there any papaya native to China? Yes! “Papaya” native to China, formally known as Chinese quince (Chaenomeles speciosa), is a plant belonging to the genus Rosaceae. In the “The Classic of Poetry”, “There was presented to me a papaya, And I returned for it a beautiful Ju-gem;” The papaya mentioned in The Classic of Poetry is Chinese quince. Taiwan introduced Chinese quince in 1978, but it was also given a nice name “Hanmei” (literally meaning “Cold plum”)! Although it is called Chinese quince, the fruit of Chinese quince can only be used as medicine. It has the effect of “relaxing muscles, dehumidifying and stomach”. It can’t be used for making papaya milk!

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葉綠舒 Susan Yeh

黑手老師、科普作者、資深書蟲 Educator, popular science writer and bookworm.