There are several fruits that really say "Hawaii" - pineapples, bananas, mangos, coconuts, and we dare not forget the humble papaya. Papayas have long been recognized as the universal breakfast fruit in Hawaii and is enjoyed by people of all classes. It grows easily and with virtually no care and has very simple needs in terms of the soil, amount of water, and other conditions. Insects are not a problem for it and it takes up little to no space in a garden.
While it’s not known for certain, it is believed that the papaya originated in the Caribbean and was then introduced to Latin America. Christopher Columbs was a huge fan and called it the ‘fruit of the Gods’. Spanish and Portuguese explorers spread the fruit throughout their empires. In the1800s, the Papaya was brought to Hawaii where it thrived.
Up until the 1950s, papayas were one of Hawaii’s major export crops - but, then disaster hit as the Ringspot Virus nearly wiped out the industry over the next three decades. Finally, the Rainbow Papaya was introduced - it is a genetically modified (and Ringspot resistant) variety which saved the Hawaiian Papaya industry from disappearing. Today, the papaya growing industry is alive, however greatly reduced. This is largely because nearly all varieties are now hybridized with the genetically modified Rainbow Papaya.
As strange as it may seem when looking at a papaya tree - it is actually an herb. As such it has many medicinal properties. Most commonly it is known as a digestive aid because the enzymes in the fruit help to speed up digestion. The fruit is rich in vitamins and minerals and has many folk uses as well. The roots of the tree are said to be an effective sedative, the seeds - which are mostly thrown away today were once prized for their medicinal qualities as an expectorant and sedative. It is the juice that has the most medicinal qualities however. Papaya juice is used for all manner of skin conditions, intestinal worms, ulcers, sores, and even as a cosmetic.
Still, even with all of these uses and more, the best use of a papaya is for your breakfast! Simply cut it in half, clear out the seeds, squeeze a bit of lime juice on it, and dig in with your spoon.