As prescribed by Paulina Constancia

PAWPAW Power (1)- Growing Papayas

On a recent trip to my hometown of Cebu, I helped out in harvesting papayas at the KPAF (Katunggan Permaculture Adventure Farm).  I have eaten papayas all my life but this was the first time I actually had the opportunity to cut it right from the tree. It is a strange sensation. And I will explain what I mean by that. The papaya fruit is heavy but the actual stalk that connects it to the tree is brittle and cuts so easily with a knife. It still puzzles me how a stalk so weak can support such a heavy fruit. Upon cutting, some milky substance squirts out of the stalk as though the ‘mother’ plant is weeping as it is separated from the child it has nurtured for months.

My first papaya harvesting experience made me ask myself ‘how much do I really know about this fruit? this tree?’ So this week we look into the world of papayas in a special feature called PAWPAW Power. Pawpaw is another name for Papaya. Today, I bring you – “Growing Papayas”.
My First Papaya Harvesting Experience
Carcar, Cebu, Philippines

Basic Information About Papayas/Pawpaws
Info Source

Scientific name: 
Carica papaya

Other Names:
Papaya (most common name)
Pawpaw, Papaw (Australia & some Caribbean countries) 
Tree melon (English)
Fruta Bomba (in most of Cuba)
Papaye (French)
Los Llanos (Venezuela)
Lechosa (Eastern Central Colombia)
Mamón (Argentina and Paraguay)
Info source for Papaya names

Origin: Southern Mexico, Central America, Northern South America

Distribution: Most tropical countries
Evergreen or deciduous: Evergreen

Flowers: Papaya has pleasant smelling flowers with five cream-white to yellow-orange petals  of 2 to 5 cm length. The stigmatic surfaces are pale green in color. The stamens are bright yellow.

Leaves: The spirally arranged leaves are on the top of the trunk. The lower part of the trunk shows the scars from earlier leaves and fruits. The large leaves are about 50-70 cm in diameter, they are deeply lobed with 7 lobes.

Fruits: Smooth skinned fruits. Papaya fruits vary a lot in size and shape, depending on the variety and type of plant (round, oval, pear-shaped, etc.). Fruits can be small ( afew hundred grams) to big (several kilos). Usually the fruits contain many seeds surrounded by the smooth yellow to orange-red flesh which usually has a sweet taste.

Climate and weather: Papaya needs a warm tropical climate.

Pollination: Based on flower type there are three types of papaya plants: female, hermaphrodite, and male. Hermaphrodite flowers are usually self-pollinating. Female flowers are probably pollinated by wind or by insects (thrips, moths). Hand pollination can be used for better fruit setting.

Height: 5 to 10 meter

Light: Papayas need a lot of sunlight.

Type of soil: Papayas prefer light, well-drained soils. They do not like very wet soil.

Spacing (close range) 1.5 meter   Spacing (wide range) 3 meter

Propagation:Papayas are usually propagated by seed.

Insect pests:Mealybugs, thrips, mites, white flies, fruit spotting bugs, fruit flies.

Diseases:Virus diseases, mildew, anthracnose, root rot.

Harvesting:Harvest by hand when most of the skin is yellow-green. Then keep the fruit for ripening at room temperature for several days. The fruit is ripe when it feels soft and its skin has attained an amber to orange color.

Uses:Eat papaya as a fresh fruit. Peel the skin, then slice the content and remove the seeds. To enhance the taste squeeze some lemon juice over it. Papaya can be mixed in fruit salads.

How to Grow Papaya
Info Source: Tropical Permaculture

You can use any shop bought papaya for seeds, but you get the best results if you use seeds from locally grown papaya fruit.
Just cut the papaya in half, scrape out the seeds, and clean and dry them. (Actually, I never bother cleaning them…)

You will end up with enough seeds to grow a papaya plantation…
Select a sunny and sheltered place in your garden. That’s right, in your garden. Don’t start them in pots!

Papayas don’t transplant well. Anything that disturbs the roots of papayas really sets them back. They just hate it. The most fool proof way to grow papayas is to simply plant them where they are to live.

Papaya trees are very, very hungry. That means they need very good soil, rich in organic matter and nutrients.

If you don’t have fabulous soil, make some. Dig a hole half a meter across and fill it with a mix of good compost and soil. Actually, make at least two or three such planting beds in different locations.

Now sprinkle on some of your seeds. A couple of dozen per bed is a good amount. I usually use even more… Cover the seeds lightly with more compost, and then mulch the patch well. The seeds usually take about a couple of weeks to germinate, and may take longer… Learn more on how to grow papayas from a tropical permaculturist

My son Lucas helping out in the Papaya Harvest at KPAF.
He volunteered to lift the papayas. It may appear like he’s experiencing backpains after moving two papayas to the other end of the truck, but he’s actually rubbing the sticky papaya sap on his shirt which he eventually rubbed onto his eyes, then he cried for help because he started feeling terribly itchy all over. It’s too bad we couldn’t help anymore with the harvest after the first tree. I had to rush back to the house to give him a bath, and then it looked like he had two big insect bites on his eye lids. Perhaps, some microscopic insects were drawn to the fresh papaya sap that he had rubbed onto his eyelids, or maybe he had an allergic reaction to the sap and it caused the redness and irritation. Indeed, there are many things I am just beginning to understand about the world of PAPAYAS/PAWPAWS. Together we will learn more about this amazing fruit this week.

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This entry was posted on August 26, 2012 by in Uncategorized.
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