Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fruit Of The Week - Papaya

Fruit History:
The first literary reference to papayas dates back to 1526, when they were found in the Caribbean coast of Panama and Colombia and described by the Spanish chronicler Oviedo.

Thanks to its several hardy seeds (which can last for up to the 3 years in cool and dry conditions) the plant spread relatively easily throughout the tropics, and has become naturalized in several regions, especially those abundant with water and fertile soils.

Papayas are thought to be native to tropical America, in a region that goes from the Andes of South America to Southern Mexico. They were spread to the south by Indians (aboriginal Americans), and was later spread to the whole Caribbean by Spanish explorers, who also carried it to Europe and the Pacific Islands.

Papayas could be found in any tropical region by 1650, and later spread to Hawaii around the end of the 18th century. Hawaii remains today the only state producing papayas commercially.

In Florida, during the early 1900, there was a small papaya industry, but it was rapidly destroyed by viral diseases (such as papaya ringspot virus) that are still threatening papayas in other areas: the Hawaiiand industry underwent a decline recently for this reason. 

However, new technologies have allowed biotechnologists at the University of Hawaii, in 1998, to genetically modify papaya cultivars of the species "Sunrise", inserting a gene in their DNA that confers them viral immunity.

This application of engineering made papayas the first genetically modified fruit for human consumption, and it appears to have achieved a lot of success! Since the experiment, most of the papaya plants in Hawaii have been replaced by the new genetically modified Sunrise cultivar.

Papayas belong the Caricaceae family, which was recently at the center of taxonomic arguments: new information increased the number of genera from 4 to 6, placing them in the monophyletic clade of glucosinolate-producing families that includes the Brassicaceae.

The bulk of the genus was comprised by the newly named Vasconcellea species of South America, but several morphologica, molecular, reproductive and biogeographical traits suggest that Carica papaya is actually monospefic, and distinct from Vasconcellea.

Botanically, the history of papayas is very curious: it was domesticated in Central American from progenitors that were nearly inedible and weedy, and has undergone lots of changes and mutations during centuries of human selection, that modified its fruit size, flesh color, mating system and growth habits. - Papaya Lovers 

Health Benefits:
Papaya fruit is and excellent source of dietary fiber, folate, vitamin A, C and E. It also contains small amount of calcium, iron, riboflavin, thiamine and niacine. It is also very rich in antioxidant nutrients flavonoids and carotenes, very high in vitamin C plus A, and low in calories and sodium. - Traditional Oven 

It is also an excellent source of Vitamin-A (provides 1094 IU/100 g) and flavonoids like beta carotenes, lutein, zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthins. Vitamin A is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin and is essential for vision. These compounds are known to have antioxidant properties which help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play role in aging and various disease processes. Consumption of natural fruits rich in carotenes has known to protect body from lung and oral cavity cancers. - Nutrition & You

Papayas are also a good source of fiber, which has been shown to lower high cholesterol levels. The folic acid found in papayas is needed for the conversion of a substance called homocysteine into benign amino acids such as cysteine or methionine. If unconverted, homocysteine can directly damage blood vessel walls and, if levels get too high, is considered a significant risk factor for a heart attack or stroke. - Worlds Healthiest Foods

Papaya has been proven natural remedy for many ailments. In traditional medicine, papaya seeds are anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic, and analgesic, and they are used to treat stomach ache and ringworm infections. - Nutrition & You

Papaya helps prevent constipation and also aid in digestion. Papaya contains the protein called papain which is a digestive enzyme that helps in natural digestion process. Papaya juice helps in alleviating infections of the colon by clearing away the infection, pus and mucus. Regular consumption will help in improving the problem. - India Parenting

Papaya is estrogenic, meaning it has compounds that act as the female hormone estrogen. It has been used as a folk remedy in promoting menstruation and milk production, facilitating childbirth and increasing the female libido. - How Stuff Works

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