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Exploding Papayas

Posted by Susan Stoltz on


I love papayas. I spent part of my childhood on the island of American Samoa in the South Pacific. Papaya grew everywhere, and we, as a family, had an endless supply.

Why I’ve never tried to grow them myself is a mystery, so I decided to give it a try. I began to see them pop up around the Phoenix Zoo and I asked where they got them. “We grew them from seed we got in the commissary,” my horticulture friend explained. That’s all it took.

I had no idea that papaya came in many sizes shapes and colors, and that some are male and female, while others are bisexual…. it’s complicated.  Papaya can be tall or dwarf, but their benefits no matter the size or shape are amazing. Just one small papaya has more than 300-percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Vitamin C. In addition, papayas also have Vitamin B, potassium, fiber, and magnesium, not to mention high levels of antioxidants. It is also very low in calories and aids in digestion. Last but not least they are delicious. Christopher Columbus called them the “fruit of the angels.”

Growing papaya from seed has been a challenge. My first try went great, I had six or seven that grew well, and I gave all but one away. That one decided it was done growing and sat dormant for months and months. Not dead, just not getting any bigger. Finally, warmer weather arrived and it’s doing well, which is a relief because I thought I had the first papaya tree in the world that would give me fruit the size of marbles! I’m now growing several varieties and they’re all getting taller by the day with the exception of one that I left out in the desert sun too long. It’s now just a stick.

American Samoa was a terrific place to grow up. But we did have the occasional hurricane. Understand, my parents took more pictures than the average human while we lived there. We came back to the states with boxes and boxes of slides. So, during the hurricane my father decided to go outside and take some dramatic photos. He stepped out back (don’t ever do this in a hurricane) where we had a papaya tree next to the back step. He aimed his camera at the jungle, the palm trees, breadfruit trees, and various other tropical plants were nearly horizontal in the 75 MPH wind.  Suddenly the top of the papaya tree blew off and landed at dad’s feet and papayas exploded everywhere (a second reminder -  never step outside into a hurricane). When the storm was over, we all stood and looked at the destruction truly amazed that the tree hadn’t taken dad out in one fell swoop.

So dear readers I will end with a poem:

Papayas are great
In most any form.
But never film one
During a hurricane storm.
They taste really good,
And are healthy for you
But when the wind blows,
They can kill you, it’s true.







November 24, 2020

Now I totally want a papaya! So much yum.

Epic photo too!! :)

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