Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Fall/Winter 2006 issue.

At its flavor zenith when 80% ripe and responding slightly to pressure, this indigenous pear-shaped fruit with juicy orange flesh can be enjoyed year round in Mexico.

Low in calories and an excellent source of vitamins A and C — half a small papaya providing 150% of the recommended daily ascorbic acid intake — it can be seasoned and cooked like squash. But most commonly it’s eaten fresh: peeled, seeded, cut into wedges and zested by lemon or lime.

Popular in ice cream and other confections, salads, salsa, smoothies and more, it contains the digestive enzyme papain. So it tenderizes meat, clarifies beer, heals ulcers and helps you stay regular. And the milky latex you get by lancing the skin of an unripe papaya has antibiotic properties, used topically in folk medicine to eliminate boils, warts and freckles. Ingested, the spicy edible seeds do the same for parasites.

Weighing up to 10 pounds or more, the thickness of its skin depends on whether it resulted from a female or a bisexual flower. And when a Spanish speaker says “papaya” and laughter results, it is more than likely being used as a racy double entendre.