The papaya is a large, tree-like plant, with a single stem growing from 5 to 10 m (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, 50–70 cm (20–28 in) in diameter, deeply palmately lobed, with seven lobes. Unusually for such large plants, the trees are dioecious. The tree is usually unbranched, unless lopped. 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 large fruit – 15–45 cm (5.9–17.7 in) long and 10–30 cm (3.9–11.8 in) in diameter. The fruit is a type of berry. It is ripe when it feels soft (as soft as a ripe avocado or a bit softer) and its skin has attained an amber to orange hue.
Growing of Papaya In India :
Papaya is the most preferred fruit for kitchen gardens. Normally it is planted as a filler plant in orchards of fruit trees with long juvenile period.
Papaya plants come into bearing within a year of planting.
Papaya originated in tropical America. Portuguese introduced papaya in India from Malacca during 1611. At present it is cultivated throughout the world in tropical and sub-tropical climate. It do not tolerate freezing temperature and frost.
Area and Production:
The papaya plant has short life, hence the area under cultivation varies greatly in different years. In India it is cultivated over an area of 97.7 thousand hectares with annual production of 3628.9 thousand MT. In Punjab it is being grown as filler plant in mango and litchi orchards. No data is available for production/average.
It requires warm and humid climate without frost. Low temperature affect the fruit and plant growth. Both foliage and fruit get damaged near 0°C. Hence, plants have to be protected by covering with gunny bags under North Indian conditions. It is also very sensitive to water logged conditions.
Papaya as a filler is grown from plains to sub mountains areas. It like soils which are well drained, rich in organic matter with near normal pH. Water stagnation for few days can be harmful.
Papaya is propagated through seeds. Seeds are extracted from ripe fruits and are rubbed with little sand to remove the white layer in which seed is enclosed. The seeds are washed and air dried before packing in polythene bags and stored at room temperature before sowing. The seeds loose viability in about 45 days, so due care should be given before extraction of seeds. Seeds can be sown any time from March to September. However, due to severe winter in North India, the seeds should be sown during July to September, when the seedling are of 20-30 cm in height and can easily be protected from frost and freeze of winter. Prepare a mixture of farm yard manure plus soil and sand in equal proportions. Use this mixture to fill the polythene bags of size 25 X 10 cm having 8 to 10 small holes on lower part of the bag for drainage of excess water. Sow two to three seeds per bag 2-3 cm deep. It will be better if seeds are treated with 3g of Captain per kg of seed before sowing. After the emergence of seedlings drench them with Captain solution @ 2 g per litre of water t-j prevent damping off disease. Remove the extra seedling from the bag. Each bag should have only one healthy seeding. The plants become ready for transplanting in the field 40-50 days.
Pits of 50cm X 50cm x 50cm should be dug one month before transplanting is intended to be carried out. The planting is done as filler or at 1.5m x 1.5m apart. Fill the pits with an equal mixture of well rotten farm yard manure and soil. To control white ants add 30g lindane 5% dust while filling the pits. Transplant 2-3 seedling 15 cm apart per pit. While planting the polythene bags should be removed. Apply height irrigation. Uproot the extra male plants. Keep only one plant per pit when these have started flowering. Keep about 10 percent male plant population scattered throughout the orchard. There will be 4356 plants per hectare.
Papaya is itself planted as filler in mango, litchi and guava orchards because, it stays in the field for 2-3 years only. However if papaya is planted enblock then shallow rooted vegetables like onion, garlic, turnip, cauliflower can be grown for the first year. No crop should be grown after one year. Intercrop should not compete for nutrition with papaya plants.
Papaya is very sensitive to water logged conditions. Avoid flooding periodically. Divide the field into segments. Apply light irrigation at 6-7 days interval in summer and 15 to 20 days interval in winter depending on soil condition. If rain is there avoid irrigation. Water should not stay near the stem of plants to prevent collor rot.
Manuring and Fertilization:
Papaya needs more nutrition due to its short juvenile period. It prefers soils with good organic matter. Apply 20kg of farm yard manure by mixing with 200g of urea 400g of muriate of potash in February or March every year per plant.
A very high dose of fertilizers have been recommended in other states which do not hold good under Punjab conditions. The male plants should not be fertilized at all. The manure and fertilizer mixture should be mixed within a radius of 40cm around the plants.
Weeding should be done regularly to keep the basins free of weeds when the papaya is planted as a filler in orchards. Two hoeings one in February-March and other in July-August are sufficient to check the growth of weeds. No weedicides should be sprayed since papaya is a shallow rooted fruit crop and plants can be damaged.
In North India, frost usually occurs in the months of December and January. Sometime late frost may occur in February also. Papaya is very sensitive to frost due to broad leaves and succulent stem. To save the young papaya plants from winter, the plantation should be done during October or November so that plants could be provided protection easily.
Cover the plants with Sarkanda thatches or by pegging three support around the plants and covering with white polythene bags of the size of plants in first winter. Care should be taken that bags do not touch the foliage. Few holes may be provided in upper portion of bags for aeration. In the second year thick gunny bags are wrapped around the fruits and apex during winter season.
Harvesting and Fruit Handling:
Papaya plants tend to over bear. Fruits are so crowded that they do not get proper space for development. Fruit thinning should be done to get well sized fruits. Proper size is attained after 5-6 months of flowering. Near ripening fruits change colour from green to yellowish green. Fruits should be harvested at maturity.
After harvesting the fruit should be placed in single layer and covered with straw till ripening. For distant markets it should be packed in baskets by placing straw below and newspaper along with gunny bag above to avoid bruising of fruits. Papaya is a climacteric fruit hence, it can be artificially ripened by dipping fruits in 500 ppm ethephon. At ripening fruits attain golden yellow colour of skin.
Papaya is eaten as fresh fruit. It is a rich source of vitamin A (2020 IU per 100 g) and sufficient vitamin C (40 mg/l00g). It also contains sufficient amount of Calcium and other minerals. The yellow colour of the pulp is due to caricaxanthin. Papaya contains vitamin By, 100 gm of pylp riboflavin 250 mg 100 gm of pulp, 0.6% proteins and 9% of carbohydrates. It contains papain a protein digesting enzyme. Papain is prepared by collecting latex from the unripe papaya fruits. Unripe fruits can be used as vegetable. Ripe fruits are used for making of Jam, Jelly, and Ice-Cream, etc.
Possible health benefits of papaya :
1 Lowers cholesterol: Papayas are rich in fibre, vitamin C andantioxidants that prevent cholesterol build up in your arteries. Too much cholesterol build-up can block the arteries completely, causing aheart attack. Papaya extracts have also found to reduce lipid and triglycerides in diabetic rats . You may also want to read how to reduce cholesterol levels naturally.
2 Helps weight loss: One medium sized papaya contains just 120 calories. So, if you’re planning to lose weight, don’t forget to add this light fruit to your diet. Besides, it also packed with a considerable amount of dietary fibre that aids weight loss by promoting a feeling of fullness and controlling cravings .
3 Boosts your immunity: Your immune system acts as a shield against various infections that can make you really sick. A single papaya can fulfil more than 200% of your daily requirement of Vitamin C, making it great to build a stronger immune system.
4 Good for diabetics: Despite being sweet in nature, papayas are low in sugar content (8.3 gm in one cup of sliced papaya) as well as glycemic index. This property makes papayas excellent fruits for diabetics. The vitamins and phytonutrients present in them prevents development of heart disease in diabetes. Also, people who don’t have diabetes can eat papaya to prevent it from happening. You may also want to read how to prevent diabetes with a fibre-rich healthy diet.
5 Great for your eyes: Papayas are rich in Vitamin A and flavonoids like beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, cyptoxanthin and lutein which keep the mucus membranes in the eyes healthy, preventing them from damage. Vitamin A in them also prevents the development of age-related macular degeneration . The best thing about papayas is that the carotenoids present in them are more bio available than those present in other vitamin A rich foods like tomatoes and carrots .
6 Protects against arthritis: Arthritis can be a really debilitating disease and people who have it may find their quality of life reduced significantly. Eating papayas are good for your bones as they have anti-inflammatory properties along with Vitamin C which helps in keeping various forms of arthritis at bay. A study published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases showed that people who consumed foods low in Vitamin C were three times more likely to have arthritis than those who didn’t. Also read 9 ways you can fight arthritis with food.
7 Improves digestion: In today’s times, it is near impossible to avoid eating foods that are bad for your digestive system. Often we find ourselves eating junk food or restaurant food prepared in excessive quantities of oil. Eating a papaya daily can make up for such occasional mistakes, as it has a digestive enzyme known as papain along with fibre which helps improve your digestive health.
8 Helps ease menstrual pain: Women who experience menstrual pain should help themselves to several servings of papaya, as an enzyme called papain helps in regulating and easing flow during menstrual periods. Here are some home remedies to relieve menstrual pain.
9 Prevents signs of ageing: All of us would love to stay young forever, but no one in this world has managed to do it. Still, healthy habits like eating a papaya daily will prolong the process and may make you look 5 years younger than you are. Papaya is rich in vitamin C, vitamin E and antioxidants like beta-carotene which helps prevent your skin from free radical damage keeping wrinkles and other signs of ageing at bay. Here’s how you can use papaya to keep your skin beautifully glowing.
10 Promotes hair growth: Apart from keeping the skin healthy, papayas are very effective for maintaining healthy hair. Vitamin A in them is utilised in production of sebum, a compound that is crucial for keeping the hair smooth, shiny and moisturised. External application of papaya extract to the scalp can help you get rid of dandruff. The nutrients present in them help hair loss. They boost hair growth and strengthening. Although there is no scientific evidence, papayas are also thought to prevent hair thinning .
11 Prevents cancer: Papaya is a rich source of antioxidants, phytonutrients and flavonoids that prevent your cells from undergoing free radical damage. A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department showed the richness of beta carotene in papayas protected against prostate cancer and colon cancer growth .
12 Helps reduce stress: After working hard for the whole day, it is a good idea to come home to a plate a papayas. The wonder fruit is rich in several nutrients like Vitamin C which can keep you free from stress. According to a study conducted in University of Alabama, found that 200 mg of Vitamin C can help regulate the flow of stress hormones in rats.