Papaya from Seed to Tree

Reader Contribution by Taylor Goggin
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Ripe Papaya
Photo by Taylor Goggin

My love for papayas began about two years ago, during my work-trade farming experience in Hawaii. Having tried the fruit only once or twice from a supermarket I was not impressed by its bland, dirty sock like taste. Aka not a fan. When it was offered to me on the farm I cringed but gave it a go because hey, we’re growing everything we eat here, so why not? 

Juicy, sweet, and smooth like butter. I was shook to the core, “how can this be?!” my taste buds have been lied to all these years. How many other fruits and veggies have I been tricked to thinking they were a flavorless catastrophe? The answer to this is everything. Every single fruit and vegetable tastes 100x better locally grown than mass produced.

My main focus at the moment was papayas. When I returned home from my farming endeavors I took a good look at the small yet generous yard I had. It’s not a huge space but it’ll do. I had nothing planted, “an open canvas” I thought.

I recommend to anyone living in subtropical areas to take a ride to your local farmers market. I found loads of seeds, plants, and mature trees native to my area. I bought two papaya trees about knee high in length. They will grow exponentially and fruit within one year. Another reason why I’m obsessed with this tree at the moment.

 Papaya seeds
Photo by Taylor Goggin

To give you an idea, mango trees take anywhere from 5-8 years to grow and bear fruit, figs can be anywhere from 6-10 years, avocado’s around 13 years, lychee’s 10-15 years. Compared to papaya’s, they mature within 6 to 9 months and can produce as many as 100 fruits in summer or fall!

 Green papaya bunch
Photo by Taylor Goggin

In South Florida and sub-tropical areas papaya grows all year round. But what’s all this hype about? Here’s a brief highlight of the beautiful benefits a serving of papaya can add to your life.

  • Rich in anti-oxidants
  • High in fiber
  • High in potassium
  • Immune support
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • High in Vitamin C & A
  • Contains digestive enzyme “papain” which aids bloating, IBS, and leaky gut syndrome

Once your tree begins to fruit wait until you see little spurts color. They will be a vibrant green, when you begin seeing an orange, yellow, reddish spread your papaya is ready for harvest. How can you tell if they are ripe? Think of them as an avocado. If you were to gently push down on the skin and feel it slightly mushy it’s ready to serve.

Ripening bunch of papaya
Photo by Taylor Goggin

The best part? One fruit can now provide you with a papaya forest! There is an abundance of seeds in the middle of each fruit; and every seed has the potential to be a new tree. There is a slimy film coating each seed. Peel off this film and let seeds dry out for a day then plant in a pot or directly in the ground.

Papayas are low maintenance companions and don’t need much to thrive. They actually do great in sandy dirt (hello South Florida!) pair that with loads of sun time and humidity you now have the bullet proof method to growing healthy, happy papaya trees! Compost every now and then on the roots is another top tip that’ll give the trees a little pep in their step.

Taylor Goggin is tropical gardener in Florida who gained her skills in cooperative agriculture while work-trading with a World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) program on the Hawaiian Islands. She now grows papaya, banana, avocado, fig, tomatoes, and medicinal herbs to make into inventive plant-based recipes. Connect with Taylor on Instagramand read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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