By S. Olanrewaju Disu .
P A W P A W
The pawpaw is a very prominent fruit in Lagos Area markets when it is in season. The fruit is large, oblong with green skin, which turns yellow when ripe and it has sweet, edible flesh. The flesh is eaten as fresh fruit or processed as dessert. The pawpaw fruit has a flesh that is usually orange or red in colour, with black , round seeds.
Historically, the pawpaw tree is native to central tropical America , but now , man has spread it to all warm countries. The pawpaw tree is also known as “carica papaya” of the family Caricaceae, the papaya family.
The pawpaw tree is a fast-growing , semi-woody tree; with male and female flowers usually on separate plants. This aids cross-pollination of plants. Therefore, in our markets, we have variation in shape and sizes of pawpaw fruits, and in sweetness of the pulp. As mentioned above, there are yellow-fleshed and pink/red-fleshed forms of the fruits.
When in season, Lagosians eat the pawpaw fruit not only for its sweetness, but also for its high nutritional and medicinal values. For example, the fruit is relatively rich in papain. Papain is important for its proteolytic action. It is also used as a tenderizer for meat. Besides papain, alkaloids are said to have been found in the latex. These alkaloids are heart-depressants, and may have some value in treatment of heart-disease, experts say.
The nutritional value of pawpaw is said to exceed that of apples, peaches and grapes in vitamins, minerals, amino acids and calories. Its water content is about 90%, while sugars and carbohydrates account for most of the balance.
Besides buying and selling of pawpaw fruits in our Lagos metropolitan markets , pawpaw plants are ornamentally planted around some homes and gardens to benefit from them in diverse ways, namely :
The leaf-pulp is haemostatic and is put on sores to promote healing.
The roots of pawpaw trees are purgative. In this part of the world, the root of the male tree is powdered and taken for the cure of head-ache. Ditto for respiratory problems, too.
Traditionally, the dry, brown pawpaw leaf is a good remedy for convulsion . It is grinded and added to palm kernel oil. It’s then stirred well and rubbed all over the body. It quickly arrests the abnormal condition.