The papaya (from Carib via Spanish), papaw or pawpaw is the fruit of the plant Carica papaya, in the genus Carica. It is native to the tropics of the Americas, and was first cultivated in Mexico several centuries before the emergence of the Mesoamerican classic cultures. It is a large tree-like plant, with a single stem growing from 5 to 10 metres (16 to 33 ft) tall, with spirally arranged leaves confined to the top of the trunk. The lower trunk is conspicuously scarred where leaves and fruit were borne. The leaves are large, 5070 centimetres (2028 in) diameter, deeply palmately lobed with 7 lobes. The tree is usually unbranched if unlopped. The flowers are similar in shape to the flowers of the Plumeria, but are much smaller and wax-like. They appear on the axils of the leaves, maturing into the large 1545 centimetres (5.918 in) long, 1030 centimetres (3.912 in) diameter fruit. The fruit is ripe when it feels soft (like a ripe avocado or a bit softer) and its skin has attained an amber to orange hue. Papayas can be used as a food, a cooking aid, and in medicine. The stem and bark are also used in rope production. The ripe fruit is usually eaten raw, without skin or seeds. The unripe green fruit of papaya can be eaten cooked, usually in curries, salads and stews. It has a relatively high amount of pectin, which can be used to make jellies. Green papaya is used in south east Asian cooking, both raw and cooked. The black seeds are edible and have a sharp, spicy taste. They are sometimes ground and used as a substitute for black pepper. In some parts of Asia, the young leaves of papaya are steamed and eaten like spinach. In some parts of the world, papaya leaves are made into tea as a preventative for malaria, though there is no real scientific evidence for the effectiveness of this treatment. Green papaya fruit and the tree's latex are both rich in an enzyme called papain, a protease which is useful in tenderizing meat and other proteins. Its ability to break down tough meat fibers was used for thousands of years by indigenous Americans. It is included as a component in powdered meat tenderizers.
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