It’s easy to be a sugar fiend in the Caribbean. You have at your disposal a plethora of tropical fruits that you can purchase from the farmer’s market on Saturdays or street vendors every sunny day of the week and gorge on like Pooh Bear with his tub of honey. The fruit that just takes the cake for me is papaya. There are so few times in my life where I have eaten papaya. I don’t tend to buy tropical fruits back home because they are not local, they taste bland as they are harvested before coming to full fruition and they are expensive. (I will admit to my addiction to dried mangoes however, I cannot get enough of those back home.)
Here’s the thing with papaya and others can attest; sometimes it tastes like vomit. I’m sorry for the repulsive reaction you may be having thinking about said flavor. I have tasted papaya in the past where the flavor has been so revolting I have lost my appetite. So I stopped eating papaya, for years. The first time I tried papaya was in Australia ten years ago. It was delectable. I ate it in my oatmeal every morning of my two week stay as a volunteer on an organic farm with a spoonful of seeds sprinkled in. Eight years later, I ate papaya again in Thailand. I remember a specific incidence that turned me off of papaya until present day, here in 2013, four years later. I had ordered a fruit salad, my taste buds eager for some tropical goodness. I was in a little cafe with a nice view of the ocean, I believe it was in Krabi. I dug into my salad with abandon, an organic farmer excited about the harvesting of tubers. I bit into the papaya and my taste buds writhed in disgust. They recoiled much like one would if they were forced to walk through a cave replete with cockroaches (I did this in Malaysia of my own volition, don’t ask me why). Why did the papaya taste like that? That flavor was quite possibly the most disgusting taste ever, in the entire universe. What happened to that papaya? So I didn’t eat papaya ever again until now.
I am not the only one with unfortunate tasting experiences with papaya. I have talked to at least a handful of others who don’t eat papaya because of similar instances. A quick google search proves that there are many in the world with this opinion; vomit, dirty socks, soap, rotten. There was a point during a homestay in April that I was fed papaya and didn’t want to be rude so I ate it. I have not stopped eating it since. It was amazing. I think perhaps the bad flavor has something to do with what stage of ripeness the papaya is at. My hypothesis is that when a papaya is overripe it has this rather gross flavor. But when it’s at the perfect ripeness, that flavor is better than fresh chocolate chip cookies ten minutes out of the oven. I have housed entire papayas for meals, I cannot get enough of them. To think one day I will very well live in places where papaya is not grown (this goes for pipas as well) makes me justify eating them as if I am a bear storing up fat before hibernation.
And do you know the nutritional value of the seeds as well? I will admit, the seeds don’t necessarily have the most pleasant flavor, they are quite bitter with a flavor of pungent black peppercorns but I ignore the taste when I eat a spoonful as it’s wonderful for your gut health. Mainly, they prevent parasitic infections (which can be rampant in these parts, trust me, I know from experience) as well as bacterial infections. If you’re a nerd for learning about nutrition as I am, you can learn more from this useful website on superfoods.
Vomit, dirty sock, soap and rotten flavors be damned, I haven’t eaten one since Thailand that has tasted repulsive. I have a feeling even if I did at this point, I would still power through it as I have joyfully discovered my obsession with this fruit is pretty much unrivaled.