History of Food

History of Food

Monday, June 18, 2012

June 18. June is National Papaya month


June 18 is National Cherry Tart Day, International Picnic Day and International Sushi Day
1865 Edmund Ruffin died. He was a pioneer in the study of soil chemistry in the U.S.
1892 Macadamia nuts were first planted in Hawaii.
1897 Juliet Corson died. Librarian, cookery teacher and writer, founder of the New York Cooking School in 1876. Her books include 'Cooking Manual' (1877), 'Twenty-five Cent Dinners for Families of Six' (1878), and 'Miss Corson's Practical American Cookery' (1886).
1898 Atlantic City, NJ opened its Steel Pier (boardwalk). The world-famous Steel Pier had 9 miles of food, beverages, concessions, amusements, concerts, etc. Ed McMahon, of the Johnny Carson Show and Publisher's Clearing House fame, was a barker on the pier in his youth..
1913 Robert Mondavi was born. A leading Napa Valley vintner.
1964 The African Groundnut Council was founded in Dakar.
1993 So-called 'killer bees,' Africanized honey bees, have reached Tucson, Arizona; a small dog was killed from a bee attack. Their original source was Brazil, where African bees were imported for experimental cross breeding.

This day in food history had nothing that tickled my fancy to investigate and post about.  Besides daily acknowledgements of food history, routinely each month as specific designations.  In reviewing the options for June, I discovered that June is National Papaya Month.  Since I am a Midwest girl, I did not experience the papaya fruit until I left the Midwest, left the Navy, and moved to South Florida.  Even now, in Connecticut, the papaya is mostly integrated into our everyday cuisine.  So, why not now, I thought I would learn about papaya.

Papaya is believed to be native to southern Mexico and neighboring Central America. It is now present in every tropical and subtropical country.  Papayas have exacting climate requirements for vigorous growth and fruit production, requiring warmth throughout the year and will be damaged by light frosts. Brief exposure to 32° F is damaging and prolonged cold without overhead sprinkling will kill the plants. Cold, wet soil is almost always lethal. Cool temperatures will also alter fruit flavor. Papayas make excellent container and greenhouse specimens where soil moisture and temperature can be moderated.

Because not everyone is aware of how to purchase a papaya or how to cut it – I figured I just cut to the chase providing “Just The Facts” (as Joe Friday from Dagnet would say).
Papayas come in various shapes and sizes: the Hawaiian variety are smaller and are pear-shaped, while Carribean and Asian papayas are long and large, 

When shopping for a ripe papaya, look for skin that is turning from green to yellow. Parts of the papaya may look bruised - this is normal. You should be able to press your thumb into the flesh. If it's too soft or mushy, or if it has a sweet smell to it, the papaya is overripe. If you buy a firmer, green-skined papaya, it will ripen within approx. 1 to 3 days on your counter.

Papaya was called "fruit of the angels" by Christopher Columbus, and for good reason. One of nature's wonders, fresh papaya improves digestion and prevents heart disease, arthritis, lung disease, and eye disorders. And with it's antioxidants, flavoniods, plus loads of vitamins and minerals, papaya will help you fight off cold and flu viruses and help keep you healthy through the winter. Papaya is high in: vitamins C, A, K, E, plus magnesium, folate, beta carotene, and lutein, and more.  If you cut open a papaya it truly resembles the inside of a pomegranate. (FYI – in Greek mythology the pomegranate was regarded as the fruit of the gods).    (The difference between the interior of the pomegranate and the papaya is that the seeds of the papaya is not the fruit of the fruit – the meat of the fruit is the fruit…with the pomegranate the seeds are used as the fruit).

In cutting the papaya, rinse the fruit under cool water to remove any dust or dirt. (You'll be peeling off the skin and discarding it, so this step isn't an absolute necessary).  Place the papaya on a cutting board. Using a large, sharp knife, cut the papaya in half lengthwise. If your papaya is ripe, this should be easy to do.  Open up the papaya and separate it into two sections. Using a large spoon, scrape out the seeds. The easiest way to do this is to hold the papaya over the garbage can (or a bowl, if you plan to use the seeds), and scrape downward. Try not to cut too deeply with your spoon, or you may lose quite a bit of the fruit. 

Papaya seeds have a peppery flavor to them, and can be used for salad dressings and other purposes, if desired.  You can now enjoy the papaya fruit by digging into it with a spoon. Or create papaya "mellon balls" with a mellon ball scoop OR an ice cream scoop.  To make papaya wedges or cubes, you will need to peel the papaya. The easiest way to do this: Hold the papaya vertically and run your knife downward along the skin in long slices. Again, try not to slice too deeply, or you will lose a lot of the fruit (or use a vegetable peeler).  Alternatively, you can cut the papaya into slices and use a knife to peel the skin off each slice.  turn the papaya over and simply slice into wedges - as thickly or thinly as you like.

Papaya wedges are great to serve for breakfast (they look terrific on the side of a plate of eggs and toast!). Or use them to make a tasty papaya salad, there are numerous recipes on the internet.  If you'd rather have cubes of papaya fruit, simply turn the wedges on their sides, and slice into cubes or chunks.  Squeeze a little lime juice over the papaya (about 1 Tbsp) - this brings out the tropical flavor of the fruit (my husband won't eat it any other way!). Or combine your fresh papaya with other fruit in a fresh fruit salad.  Another way to eat papaya – which is my absolute favorite – is to puree the fruit and make ice cream with it.  It is refreshing, almost the point of having a sherbet texture.
To Store Papaya: Store leftover prepared fruit in closed containers in the refrigerator. Fresh Papaya will keep anywhere from several days to 1 week, depending on how ripe.

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