All you need is a paper bag and a paring knife.

By Laura Fisher
July 14, 2020
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Papayas sometimes take a backseat to other popular summer fruits, but did you know that the sweet, creamy orange flesh is not only delicious, but incredibly good for you? The luscious fruit is packed with antioxidants and nutrients, and contains enzymes that can help with digestion. It’s about time we all started including more papaya in our diets. 

If you’re not familiar with papayas, it can be intimidating to know what to look for at the store, and what to do once you get home. If you’re wondering how to tell when your papaya is ripe and ready to devour, the thing to pay attention to is color. The skin of the papaya  will slowly start to turn from green to yellow as it begins to ripen. When it’s almost fully yellow and a little soft to the touch, your papaya is ready to eat. If you wait too long, the fruit will begin to get overripe and mushy, and the flesh will be bland-tasting and mealy. 

Buying papayas that are already almost ripe is the ideal scenario, as you can take them home and have them ready to serve after an overnight stay on the counter. But like going to the grocery store for guacamole ingredients and being faced with a tower of rock-hard avocados, sometimes life gets in the way of best-made plans. 

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You can, of course, just let your papaya ripen naturally on the counter at room temperature. But if you’re in a rush to use the fruit for a specific recipe, or just can’t wait to dive in to the creamy, orange flesh, there is a foolproof method you can try that will speed up the ripening process to as little as one day. If your papaya is looking ripe and you aren’t quite ready to use it, we have some tips for slowing down the ripening, too. Looking for options beyond just fruit salad? Use your papaya in a summery salsa, as the base for refreshing ice pops, or even in some no-churn ice cream.

Speed Up the Ripening Process

The basic method here is similar to what you might be familiar with for ripening an avocado or other fruit and requires only one piece of equipment: a paper bag. Simply placing your papaya into a paper bag and folding or rolling closed will ripen the fruit within two to three days, depending on how green it was to begin with.

If you want to take it up a notch, add an ethylene-producing fruit like an apple or ripe banana to the bag to speed up the ripening process by a day.  

In a super hurry? Here’s where the papaya-specific instructions come in handy. If you have green papayas on hand that you need to use ASAP, get out your paring knife in addition to the paper bag. Carefully score the skin of the papaya with the knife vertically along the fruit. Score lightly and make sure to not pierce the flesh of the fruit, just the skin, or you run the risk of your papaya rotting before it’s even ripe enough to eat. The scoring helps the papaya release ethylene and ripen more quickly, and leads to an exceptionally sweet fruit. If you use this method, you don’t need to put another piece of fruit in the bag as the papaya is utilizing its own ethylene. 

Slow Down the Ripening Process

So now you’ve got a ripe papaya on your hands, but what if you’re not ready to put it to use quite yet? You can place a ripe papaya in the fridge until you’re ready to eat it to keep it from spoiling. The papayas will keep in the fridge for up to a week, but it’s best to use them within two days for optimal flavor.