How to pick papaya from a tree

Popular Papayas: Simple Tips for Growing, Harvesting and Enjoying the Tasty Fruit

Nov 23, 2020 05:00PM ● By ERIK ENTWISTLE

One ready to harvest, but not quite ready to eat!

Popular Papayas: Simple tips for growing, harvesting and enjoying the tasty fruit [5 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

Papayas are one of the easiest and most rewarding fruits to grow in Southwest Florida. All you need is a sunny spot with irrigation and good drainage. The following are some simple tips for growing, harvesting and using your very own papayas at home!

You will need to purchase a live plant to get started. Don’t plant papaya seeds, because you may end up with a male plant that will flower but not produce any fruit. We acquired our “Red Lady” cultivar from FruitScapes Fruit Tree Nursery and Fruit Market in Bokeelia, on Pine Island.

The hardware store chains also frequently carry them. One plant should be sufficient to produce huge quantities of fruit.

Make sure that your selected planting location is in full sun, receives regular watering and is well-drained. Potted papayas often “resent” transplanting, so getting the plant in the ground without damaging the roots is essential. The newly transplanted papaya should be monitored closely. If the transplant fails, you can always try again!

Once established, papaya plants grow extremely rapidly and should begin fruiting in the first year of planting. Occasional fertilization will be needed to encourage and maintain healthy growth. Pruning is not necessary, but you may wish to remove any leaves that turn yellow—to keep the plant looking its best. They easily snap off at the base.

Harvest fruit any time after it starts to turn color from dark green to a lighter orange-yellow. Just grab hold of the fruit and twist off the stem. Once the plant becomes too tall to reach the papayas, a fruit picker or hoe may be used to pull down the fruit. 

Fruits that are still partially green may be left on the kitchen counter to finish ripening. Refrigerate once the papayas are ripe—where they will keep for about a week. Papayas produce fruit year round, so part-time residents won’t miss out on the harvest.

Papayas are tough plants, and the massive stem and leaves give the plant a kind of prehistoric look. Our 2-year-old tree fell over in September 2017—courtesy of Hurricane Irma—but then completely regenerated from the trunk, sending out several new shoots that are still producing fruit three years later. Papayas are said to decline after a few years and need to be replaced, so it will be interesting to see how long our “second-chance” papaya remains viable.

As far as pests go, the papaya fruit fly is a frustrating one that you might encounter. Adults deposit eggs inside the immature fruits, and the hatched larvae crawling inside render the fruits inedible. Our initial crop of fruit was affected; we simply removed the offending fruits and since then have not had any more trouble.

There are many ways to enjoy papaya—the simplest being to simply peel and seed the fruit, and then cut the flesh into chunks. Some people like to season the fruit chunks with lime, salt, pepper and cayenne. 

Smoothies are also a great way to use excess papaya, and chunks can be frozen for future use. Don’t overlook the edible black seeds, which are often discarded. They may be blended with the fruit chunks into smoothies, or dehydrated and placed in a pepper grinder. (Their spicy flavor is similar to peppercorns.) Try them and see if you like their unique taste.

In our region, few if any tropical fruits produce as many fruits as quickly as the papaya. So perhaps now is the time to plant a piece of papaya paradise in your own back yard!

Pianist, instructor and musicologist Erik Entwistle lives and teaches on Sanibel Island. He writes the Stay Tuned column for TOTI Media. A favorite hobby is growing vegetables and fruit using sustainable gardening methods.

How to Know When a Papaya on a Tree Is Ready to Be Picked | Home Guides

By M.T. Wroblewski Updated February 22, 2021

It makes no difference if you plan to make stuffed papaya boats with walnuts and raisins, a papaya chutney sauce or a papaya smoothie. Fully ripened papayas (Carica papaya) are sweet papayas, so your culinary success with these recipes and others depends on your being a wise papaya picker. Winter hardy in USDA zones 10 through 12, your papaya tree could produce as many as 100 papayas in the summer or fall, Harvest to Table says. By any measure, this total qualifies as a bountiful harvest, and you probably don’t want a single papaya to go to waste. So learn exactly when papayas are ready to be plucked – and what you can do if you need a little boost in your quest to send them straight to your kitchen cutting board.

Double-Check Your Papaya “Tree” Information

If you’ve been learning about papaya, you may have come across one hitch in your research efforts: Papaya trees aren’t really trees since they lack the “woody tissue” required to be classified as such, HerbaZest says. Better to call it a “herbaceous crop with a tough, thickened stem,” though that's such a mouthful it's no wonder that even gardening experts prefer one-word terms, alternately referring to it as a “plant,” “shrub” and even an “herb.

Since a papaya stem can grow 20 feet tall (and 10 feet in containers), it’s easy to see why many people cast their vote for “tree.” Of course, it’s also easier and more commonplace to say “tree,” so it helps to be aware of the various references as you develop your papaya repertoire.

Whichever term you prefer, the crop thrives in warm temperatures – or those ranging from 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit – and full sun. And “full sun” means just that; even papaya grown in partial sun may not sweeten. This is why commercial papaya growers gravitate to the warm and sunny climes found in southern California, southern Florida and Hawaii. They know that papaya is so sensitive to frost that even temperatures in the high 20s can damage or kill the melon-like fruit brimming with black, pea-sized seeds.

Brace for Papaya Growth Stages

With any luck, you'll never encounter the demise of a single papaya. But you do have to be patient and bide your time. A papaya plant can take six to nine months to mature (meaning, flower) in the spring, but it could take 11 months if temperatures have cooled, Gardening Know How says. Then it's time to keep an eye on a transformation that will take place before your eyes.

All papayas go through a “green phase” (their immature color) before they turn to their mature color. Depending on the species you have purchased, the mature color will be yellow, orange or red. How will you know where to train your eye? Keep it on the blossom end, which will be the first region of the papaya to change color.

Alert your favorite papaya picker when at least half of the papaya has turned to its mature color – and a three-quarter color change would be better. In this case, "better" means the papaya will be sweeter — and tastier in papaya boats, chutneys and smoothies. Here again, it pays to exercise restraint; papayas do not become sweeter after they're picked.

Line Up Your Fellow Papaya Picker

Once your papayas are ready to be picked, get ready for challenges, especially if the “tree” is especially tall and the harvest is plentiful. Brace yourself because the size of each fruit usually averages about 10 pounds each but can go up to 20 pounds each, Fine Gardening says.

This means you should devise a harvesting plan. You have four basic options: Stand on a ladder and pluck away, putting each papaya into a basket as you go; lay tarps on the ground and shake the stem until the fruit falls onto the tarps; use a basket picker tool – basically a long pole with a metal basket attached; or use a long-handled pruner to clip off the stems of the fruit. This tool functions much like a pair of scissors.

This last option may also take more time, but it works especially well with large fruit. And with some practice, you'll probably pick up speed – particularly on your way to the kitchen.


  • Missouri Botanical Garden: Carica papaya
  • Herbazest: Papaya tree
  • Gardening Know How: Papaya Harvest Time: Tips For Picking Papaya Fruits
  • Fine Gardening: Papaya


  • The papaya seeds are edible. They have a sharp, spicy tang and can be finely ground and used like black pepper.
  • Consider removing and replacing your papaya plant after a few years. The taller it gets, the harder it becomes to harvest fruit. As papayas age, they weaken and produce less fruit. The quality of the fruit declines in older trees.


  • The riper the papaya fruit becomes while on the plant, the more attractive it is to wildlife. Watch for signs of fruit flies, birds, bats and rodents. Pick the fruit at the first sign of trouble. Commercial growers pick papayas as soon as they begin to color to prevent animal predation.

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<p><font>Mary honed her journalism skills in two of Chicago's scrappiest newsrooms: The Daily Herald and then the Chicago Sun-Times. She took this knowledge, combined it with her experience in running two marketing communication companies and now writes about communication, marketing, careers and other timely business topics for myriad national publications. </font> </p><p><font><br></font></p>

How papaya grows - tree and fruit papaya how it grows

Papaya, or melon tree, grows like a palm tree, but is a woody plant. The papaya is native to Mexico and Central America.

This plant is severely restricted in climatic conditions suitable for active growth and fruiting. Even short exposure to frost will damage the papaya tree, while prolonged exposure to frost will destroy it. Papaya grows well in artificial containers and greenhouses with moderate soil moisture and temperature.

Papaya is not long-lived, but rather grows like a large grass, reaching a height of 15 meters. Side branches do not grow from the central trunk, except in cases of any damage. All parts of the plant contain latex. The papaya trunk is hollow inside, green or dark purple, straight with traces of scars from already fallen leaves. The stem diameter at the base reaches 30 cm.0 cm long. The leaf surface is divided into several, up to 9 pieces, segments with yellowish ribs and veins. The leaf life is 4 to 6 months.

On the trunk, at the base of the leaves, on short petioles, fleshy flowers with five petals and a slight aroma are formed. On some plants, only female or only male flowers grow, sometimes bisexual specimens are found. Sex change of the papaya tree can occur throughout the year during high summer temperatures. A male or bisexual plant can become female after losing the top. How papaya is pollinated is not exactly known. Presumably the pollinators are wind or moths. Usually, artificial pollination is necessary to obtain good yields.

Types of papaya

There are two types of papaya: Hawaiian and Mexican. In supermarkets, you can usually see exactly the Hawaiian varieties. Their fruits are pear-shaped, grow up to 0.5 kg, with yellow skin when ripe. The flesh of the fruit is bright orange or pinkish in color, with small black seeds in the center. Hawaiian varieties are easier to harvest because papaya trees rarely grow taller than 2. 5 meters.

Mexican papayas are much larger, their fruits can weigh up to 5 kg. Their flesh can be yellow, orange or pink, depending on the variety. Their taste is less intense than that of their Hawaiian relatives, but still quite pleasant. A papaya fruit is considered ripe if it is juicy, sweetish and has a melon-like aroma. The fruits and leaves contain papain, which aids digestion and is used to tenderize meat. Papaya seeds are edible and have a spicy flavor somewhat reminiscent of black pepper.

How papaya is grown

Papaya prefers to grow in warm, sunny and the hottest places. It is desirable to protect trees from constant winds and excessively wet areas where rainwater accumulates. Papaya grows in warm, well-drained soils. Excess moisture will quickly destroy the plant. The soil should be moist in hot weather and dry in cold weather. Salt water or soil Melon tree does not tolerate.

Watering is the most important aspect of papaya cultivation. Plants should be kept on the dry side to avoid root rot. But at the same time, a sufficient amount of water is needed to maintain large leaves. A tree damaged earlier by frost is most susceptible to root rot.

Papaya is a fast growing plant and therefore requires regular nitrogen fertilization. Concentrated organic fertilizers such as bird droppings are often used. The tree does not need pruning, although some growers pinch seedlings to encourage the development of multiple shoots instead of a central one.

Papaya needs summer warmth and a frost-free climate for healthy growth and fruiting. Such conditions can be provided artificially by creating frames with covering materials around the plant and organizing additional heat sources. Prolonged cold, even without negative temperatures, negatively affects growth and fruiting. Mexican papayas are more hardy than the Hawaiian varieties.

How papaya is propagated

Papaya is usually propagated from seeds. They are germinated in a purified form in sterile soil and then planted in open ground. Under ideal conditions, seeds germinate in about two weeks, but this process can take three to five weeks. Seedlings usually begin to bloom at the age of 9-12 months.

Papaya trees are very sensitive to transplanting and do not tolerate root damage. Therefore, they are transplanted only once, when transferred to a permanent place in the open field, while the earthen lump must be kept intact. It can also be propagated by cuttings, but this process is more laborious, although such a papaya grows as a genetic copy of the parent plant and begins to bear fruit earlier.

Papaya fruit can be harvested when most of the skin of the fruit turns yellowish. After a few days of ripening at room temperature, the fruit is almost completely yellow and slightly soft to the touch. If a dark green fruit is plucked from a tree, then it will be impossible to achieve its proper ripening and, accordingly, its taste will suffer. Ripe fruits can be stored at 7 degrees Celsius for up to three weeks. Green papaya fruits cannot be eaten raw due to their latex content, and are often boiled like vegetables when they are.

Why is papaya called "Negro soap"?

In some tropical countries, the local population uses papaya leaves to wash clothes.

There are over a thousand varieties of papaya. They differ not only in appearance and size of fruits, but even in their taste.

Why is papaya called "breadfruit"?

When the fruits are baked on fire, the smell of bread begins to emanate from the papaya.

Why is papaya called "melon tree"?

The chemical composition of fruit pulp is close to melon.

The fruits of the melon tree are healthy and nutritious. Papaya for breakfast is a common dish for places where this tree grows. It is usually eaten raw, without the skin or seeds. The unripe fruits are stewed and used in curries and salads. Papaya is used for juices, sorbets, pastries and confectionery.

The ability of papaya juice to break down tough meat fibers is widely used to tenderize such meat. For this purpose, in tropical countries it is customary to add small pieces of the fruit to soups and roasts, in the food industry meatballs and steaks are treated with juice. Papayas are used to clarify beer and flavor cheese.

Fruits, leaves, stems, trunks - all parts of the melon tree contain papain and are used.
Physiologically, papain acts much like gastric juice. Therefore, papaya fruits are used as a dietary product that promotes digestion. In the same plan, papayas are processed to obtain medicines as a result.
They are used or used for gastritis, for the treatment of thrombosis, for burns and eczema.
In cosmetics, papaya preparations are used to remove freckles and strengthen hair.

Luc Montagnier, the famous French virologist, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Medicine, suggests using papaya extract as part of the prevention of influenza A / h2N1 until the vaccine against the “new flu” is ready.

Tags: fruits, plants, photo, flowering


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