Our organic garden- how to grow papaya

So, we were given some presents from our friends at Mindful Farm. Namely four banana plants, six papaya and two tomatoes. It’s time to plant our first plants and see how much I’ve retained from our visit! Ok, first up, how to grow papaya!

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Papaya, or malakor in Thai, grows pretty much everywhere. It’s one of those plants that will happily grow on the side of a road – and once you know the leaves you’ll recognise it throughout Thai suburbs. It’s a fast growing single stem with an umbrella of leaves at the top. The large fruit hang down underneath, and look far too heavy to be supported by such little stems. Payapa is really good for you…some health benefits here.

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This fruit is often picked before it’s ripe and ripened at home. When the skin has a yellow-orange tint to it, it’s ready to be eaten. It will feel quite firm but bruise if squeezed. Ripe papaya flesh is a salmony-orange colour and delicious with a squeeze of lime over. I’m not a fan of the really ripe, soft fruit as I don’t like the texture, but many people love it!

Unripe papaya has green skin and is used for savoury dishes such as the famous Thai salad somtam. The flesh is grated off and bashed in a giant mortar and pestle, it has an addictive hot and sour flavour. 

It’s simple to grow papaya from seed (er in Thailand that is, I can’t comment on other countries)! Simply scoop out the seeds from a fresh fruit and allow to dry. Once dry, plant pop into soil in a sunny spot and water moderately. You can plant them directly into your garden, or into little grow bags (like we have here). When re-planting them, if they have no soil then make sure you take off 2 or 3 leaves when you plant them. This is because the roots take a couple of days to adjust, however the leaves continue to suck water up and will dehydrate and kill the plant. If you plant from an undisturbed root ball no need to do this.  

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Water on days with no rain, and in 9 months you can expect fruit. That’s a pretty good turnaround! Papaya can be male, female or bisexual. Female plants are shorter and have fatter fruit (above left), male plants taller and don’t have fruit (above right), bisexual plants also bear fruit. More info here if you want it.

Papaya is one of those things that most people have in their gardens, so if bought locally it’s likely to be organic too! I’ll find some recipe ideas once (and indeed if) we get fruit – fingers crossed….