Papaya - pawpaw


The papaya Carica papaya is thought to be indigenous to the West Indies and northern South America. It was carried by the Spanish to Manila in the mid 1500's. From there it went to Malacca then India and reached Hawaii in 1800-1820's.
There are 45 species of papaya and the "trees" reach fruit bearing age after only a year, so are very fast growing; see the getJamaica web site or the California Rare Fruit Growers site for more details.

The "Solo" type, with pink flesh was introduced to Hawaii from Barbados and Jamaica in 1911.

Papaya is currently cultivated on 800 acres of land located mainly in St. Thomas and Trelawny. There are 8 main papaya growers and together they employ a labour force of approximately 600 persons.

Jamaica exports the "sunrise" variety which has a deep red flesh. Exports from Jamaica began in the 80's, 4062 tonnes were shipped in 1995, 4704 tonnes in 1996 and 4001 tonnes in 1998. The breakdown on exports at that time was 53% of the fruit was destined for the US market, 25% for the UK, 17% for Canada and 5% for Holland.

A typical arrangement for the orchards would be that the trees are planted in a free-draining soil with a plant population of 792 to the acre and a spacing of 3 by 1.5 metres. The expected yield is 100 to 140 export boxes per acre per week with each box containing 4 kg of fruit.

Visit the Jamaica Papaya Growers Association pages from more information.




Much of the early work on the estimation of sugars in papaya is now known to be incorrect due to the presence of an invertase enzyme. A more recent evaluation which heated the samples in a microwave oven to deactivate the enzyme has given the distribution as follows:
sucrose (48.3% early reports suggested NONE), glucose (29.8%) and fructose (21.9%).

The total carbohydrate content has been found to be around 10 g per 100 g of edible portion.


The acid content of papayas is very low and the pH is generally between 5.5 - 5.9 and comes from almost equal amounts of citric and malic acid.


The difference between yellow and red-fleshed papayas was first described in 1964 and the total carotenoid content was reported to be 3.7 mg/100 g and 4.2 mg/100 g respectively.
The major differences can be seen in the following table.

Percent composition of carotenoid pigments
pigment yellow red
beta-carotene 4.8 4.8
zeta-carotene 24.8 5.9
and monoepoxide
15.6 4.4
cryptoxanthin 38.9 19.2
lycopene 0.0 63.5
unresolved 15.9 2.2

The structure of lycopene is given below:

Check this out for reasons to eat the red papaya with lots of lycopene!


106 volatile compounds were identified in 1977 using GC/MS techniques. The compound thought to have the odour that most closely resembled that of papayas was linalool - 68%. Benzyl isothiocyanate - 13% contributes a pungent off-odour and is present as a major component.

Papain and other enzymes

Several enzymes have been found in papayas of which papain is of commercial importance. 2/3 of the usage in the USA is as a meat tenderiser and it is used as a beer stabilising agent as well.
Papain is recovered by making scratches (tappings) in the latex. 6 tappings over 15 days has been recommended for optimum recovery of the enzyme. The scratches are made 0.2 cm deep at 1.25 cm apart and are best done on days 1,3,6,9,12 and 16. The yield is of the order of 180 lb per acre. The latex is either hyperallergenic or an irritant and so it is necessary to wear gloves. The scratches should not be made with a metallic knife although collection into aluminum trays is found to be OK.
Processing by 95% alcohol followed by acetone gives complete precipitation and dehydration. The 212 amino acid sequence has been determined.


"Tropical Fruit Processing", Edited by J. Jagtiani, H.T. Chan, Jr. and W.S. Sakai Food Science and Technology, A series of monographs, 1988, Academic Press, Inc., 1250 Sixth Avenue, San Diego, California, 92101.
"Food Flavourings", Edited by P.R. Ashurst, Blackie Academic & Professional, an imprint of Chapman & Hall, Wester Cleddens Road, Bishopbriggs, Glascow, G64 2NZ, UK. 2nd edit. 1995.
The Jamaica Gleaner, Farmers Weekly, Sat 14th June-97, page A 11.

Return to links to the chemistry of other Jamaican items, including spices and fruit and vegetables.

Dr Bird logoReturn to Chemistry, UWI-Mona, Home Page

Copyright © 1997-2014 by Robert John Lancashire, all rights reserved.

Created and maintained by Prof. Robert J. Lancashire,
The Department of Chemistry, University of the West Indies,
Mona Campus, Kingston 7, Jamaica.

Created May 1997. Links checked and/or last modified 8th August 2014.