Connect with us

Thai Life

Gardening: No paucity of pawpaws – Phuket’s famous hermaphrodite

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: I first encountered papayas as an exotic item in colorful bowls of dessert served up along with slices of kiwi and dragon fruit, chunks of pineapple and mango.

That was many years ago. The venues? High-society restaurants in London’s Mayfair where the management was frantically vying with rival casinos to attract high rollers with sumptuous free meals. Not that I was ever a high roller or “whale”: I was merely the lucky beneficiary of a wealthy friend’s largesse.

In Thailand, such an assemblage of luscious fruit would be nothing out of the ordinary, even in a relatively modest eatery. Why? Because they are grown here, and part of everyone’s everyday tasting experience. Even my garden boasts papayas and mangoes, and you don’t have to venture far in Phuket to discover plantations of dragon fruit and pineapples.

In fact the papaya is not only one of the easiest of all plants to nurture in this fecund environment; it is, in its green, unripe form, probably the most ubiquitous of all fruits in central and northern Thailand, with crisp white flesh that is the basic ingredient in a range of traditional dishes from kaeng som (a curry) to a boiled accompaniment to nam prik.

I recently took a couple to an Isarn friend: no doubt they will end up as somtam (green papaya salad).
Two per cent of the world’s papayas are cultivated in the Kingdom, more than enough to satisfy the


nation’s love affair with the fruit. It ranks third, behind only the aforementioned mango and pineapple, in the list of the world’s most widely cultivated fruits.

The papaya, or pawpaw in other parts of the globe, is the botanist’s carica papaya; oddly, it is the sole member of the genus. Its unique, slightly musky flavor when ripe – and this is how it is eaten in
Europe – is not replicated by any other fruit.

That is not its only claim to uniqueness. The plant, an American native, comes in three sexes: male, female and hermaphrodite. So, you could say it is very much at home here in Thailand.

Ironically, the hermaphrodite is favored by growers since it is self-pollinating.

The papaya is a rapid growing and unfussy plant which can tolerate poor soil, producing a cluster of large, heavy, marrow-like fruits, often within two years.

Weighing as much as two kilos, they start green before turning first yellow and then orange. Its twin hates are soggy conditions – standing water will kill it – and frost. It’s truly tropical, and one which everyone can grow in Phuket from seed.

Although it looks like a conventional tree – sometimes mistaken for a variety of palm with its
single stem and crown of deeply serrated leaves – it is actually not, since it possesses paper-thin
foliage and a relatively soft, hollow trunk which can be felled with a single blow from a machete.
In the pantheon of medicinal plants, however, it ranks highly and deserves its place in our survey of plants both nutritious and curative.

The green fruits are rich in papain, a chemical used to tenderize meat, and the ripe papaya also contain pectin, an ingredient in many jellies.

The delicious pinkish orange flesh contains both vitamin A and C, carotenoids, and folate, a source of vitamin B6. Rich in trace elements, the papaya abounds in potassium and in common with most fruits and vegetables, is a plentiful source of fiber.

Folk medicine and cookery has made use of the papaya for centuries. The leaves are sometimes made into a tea for the treatment of malaria, or can be steamed and used as a substitute for spinach. The dense black seeds are spicy and are sometimes used as a substitute for pepper.

Its other perceived benefits include aiding digestion, raising platelet levels in the blood and, believe it or not, as a contraceptive.

Only don’t ask me how…

Catch Patrick online at Sunday morning next week, when he explores the refreshing properties of Roselle.

— Patrick Campbell


Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forums
🔔 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join YouTube for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Insurgency9 hours ago

Suspected insurgent wanted for murder killed by forces in Pattani

Thailand11 hours ago

Phang Nga reopening and “Phuket Sandbox” island hop extensions postponed

Best of11 hours ago

Bangkok’s 5 best SHA Plus Certified hotels

Welcome back to Thailand!

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in Thailand - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages!

Best of12 hours ago

Top 5 steakhouses in Phuket

Thailand12 hours ago

Bangkok Train Market official says they will reopen

Thailand12 hours ago

August vaccination plan: 80% of Bangkok residents; open to general public, expats

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand12 hours ago

300 beds added to Phuket’s second field hospital

Thailand12 hours ago

The Thaiger launches the ‘I Am Strong’ campaign

Indonesia13 hours ago

Earthquake hits Papua, Indonesia

Thailand13 hours ago

Thailand News Today | More Dark red zones, ‘coup rumour’ quashed | August 2

Thailand14 hours ago

Man arrested for allegedly robbing 7-Eleven stores in Bangkok to pay off gambling debt

Thailand14 hours ago

Protestors fill Bangkok streets to protest Prayut, many protest leaders present

Crime14 hours ago

Teenagers arrested for allegedly running underage prostitution racket

Thailand15 hours ago

PM’s daughters get letter asking them to tell their father to resign

Coronavirus (Covid-19)15 hours ago

Monday Covid Update: 17,970 new cases, provincial totals

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism5 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8