September 8, 2006

Picking Papayas

This is an unusual view of a papaya tree. El Jefe climbed up on the roof of the shed next door to take this photo. We usually try to pick the papayas as soon as they start turning yellow. If we don't, the woodpeckers peck giant holes in them. It's fun to watch them, though. One day two woodpeckers were perched side by side on the edge of a hole in a papaya, taking turns sticking their heads inside it to eat the seeds.

papayas, La Ceiba, HondurasEl Jefe climbed a ladder to pick these three papayas. These ranged from 9 to 12 pounds (4 to 5.5 kilos). I placed a 50 centavo coin (about the size of a U.S. quarter) on top to give an idea of the size. The smallest one is 13 inches (33 cm.) long by 6 inches (15 cm.) wide. I'm not sure the measurements of the larger ones because we already gave them away. El Jefe's sister-in-law said that God must have sent him because she went to the market yesterday to buy a papaya and they didn't have any. He told her that God was going to send him again next week because there are more papayas ripening.

After harvesting, the papaya skin is very lightly scored from end to end with a sharp knife 6 or 8 times to allow the latex to exude from the skin and it is placed in the sun to ripen. They say that this takes the bitterness out of the fruit. Once I didn't score one, just to see, and sure enough, it was bitter. Care must be taken not to score it too deeply or the fruit can mold before it gets completely ripe.

papayas, La Ceiba, HondurasThe other tree has two more papayas ready to pick but the ladder won't reach so we use that long tree fern trunk (leaning against the wall) to knock the papayas out of the tree. Once they have turned yellow, someone has to catch them on the way down or they can splatter all over the ground. If they are still green, usually they land on the ground without breaking open. My neighbor gave me the tree fern trunk on which to grow an orchid that he also gave me, but I killed the orchid. I would like to find out where those tree ferns are growing and get one.

Do you know what is the Spanish word for papaya?

Papaya. ;-)
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