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We must admit, papaya is one of the most delightful fruit names out there to pronounce. And just when you think you’re tired of hearing the word, you stumble upon the fruit’s equally-delightful nickname: Pawpaw.
But no matter which name you use – or which variety you choose – the papaya is somehow even more delightful to eat than it is to say.
We can thank Caribbean natives for bestowing such a fun name on the tropical fruit – though the islands aren’t the papaya’s original home.
The tropical plant has its roots in Central America, and was introduced to the Caribbean by European sailors who first picked it up in the Americas and decided to take the tasty snack with them on board their wooden ships.
If ever there was a sun-worshipping fruit, the papaya might be it – thanks, in no small part, to the plant’s hyper sensitivity to frost – though today it’s grown in locales as balmy as Texas, Florida, Southern California and Southeast Asia.
But aside from being finicky, the papaya is also pretty unique.
The fruit actually grows in three different sexes: Male, female and hermaphrodite. The males can produce pollen but no fruit. The females can produce small fruit, but they’re widely inedible.
It’s then that very special third type of papaya that makes the produce stand cut most of the time.
And papayas are also a tri-colored plant, coming in a traffic light variety of red, yellow and green. But within those broader categories, the fruit has multiplied, leaving behind a total of more than 20 different types of papayas.
Each varietal has its own special flavor and qualities, with some of the most popular types of papayas including:
Guinea Gold Papaya
Bright and brilliant, this Australian native gets its name straight from the lovely hue of both its skin and insides.
But with a thin peel, signature papaya-sweet taste and bountiful, juicy flesh, this pear-shaped papaya is also one of the best varieties for eating.
Hawaiian Sunrise Papaya
One of the most popular types of papaya out there thanks in no small part to its uniquely delicious taste, this varietal carries a flavor pallet that’s a mixture of peaches, melons and berries.
A shallow seed cavity makes removing the numerous black balls a breeze, and the fruit is painted in all the colors of its namesake, with a beautiful light green skin and a flesh that’s a perfect combination of pink and orange.
Hawaiian Sunset Papaya
No sunrise would be complete without its counterpart.
This type of papaya is technically the dwarf variety of its sunrise cousin, though it does have a few distinctive features on top of its smaller size, including a more pungent inside with a deeper-colored skin, and a seed cavity that looks just like a star when sliced horizontally.
Hortus Gold Papaya
Another banana-yellow variety, this cultivar has its roots in Sunny South Africa.
Aside from sharing a skin and flesh color with its Guinea Gold cousin, the varietal is equally sweet. Though, at up to 4 pounds, it’s much larger – and one of the biggest types of papayas out there.
This varietal got its start in a lab at the University of Hawaii – but for good reason!
A specific plant virus was threatening the viability of papayas around the world, so the school came up with this cultivar to be more resistant to disease. But it also happens to be delicious, with a high sugar content, soft, smooth orange flesh and wonderful, citrusy-sweet smell.
If you really want to eat papaya like a Hawaiian, however, this is the variety for you.
The Kapoho Papaya is the number one type of papaya grown in the Aloha State, making up nearly 90 percent of the market there. But with a specifically sweet yellow flesh and a fun yellow-and-green speckled outside, it’s not hard to see why.
Oak Leaved Papaya
One of the most uniquely-colored types papayas, this South American cultivar presents – on the outside, at least – more like an acorn squash, rocking a gold and green striped pattern.
On the inside, it’s all papaya, complete with a sweet-tasting orange flesh and edible seeds.
Another Australian varietal, this type of papaya falls on the green end of the color spectrum.
Its flesh, however, is a deep dark orange, and arguably one of the sweetest and best-smelling in all of papaya-world.
The newest entrant to the papaya world, this recently concocted cultivar has another fun skin pattern, which typically shows up as yellow with green spots.
A dark orange rounds out its inside color scheme, with a flesh that’s more pulpy than juicy and a taste that’s more tangy than sweet.
This Hawaiian varietal is notable for a few reasons: As a dwarf variety, it’s one of the smallest types of papayas out there.
But what it lacks in stature it makes up for in speed, with a tree that can fruit as early as 9 months in!
Other than that, this green cultivar is known for its sweet flavor and pretty orange flesh.
Not that we needed another reason to visit Hawaii, but all these visions of perfect papayas certainly don’t hurt!