Papaya is widely seen across Kerala. It is consumed both as fruit and vegetable. Papaya has different names throughout Kerala. For instance, omaka, kaypaka,kaplanga, etc. Infact Papaya has the most number of names for any fruit. It has more than 70 names in Malayalam!
Wetlands are not ideal for papaya cultivation, though soil needs good level of moisture. Papaya is very rarely cultivated on commercial basis in Kerala. One variety that can be commercially cultivated is known as ‘Red Lady’. This variety starts bearing fruit in 3 months of planting. It is quite short and needs no ladder for harvesting. This also means, no labour cost for harvest.
Dig deep the land chosen for planting papaya. Sunny areas will help in increased fruit production. The holes must have minimum 2 mts distance between them. Depth should be 1sq.m. In these holes, fill a mixture of dried cow dung powder, or chicken/goat manure, neem oil cakes, bone powder and a little lime.
Carefully sow the seeds of the imported Red Lady on a specially prepared seed tray. The tray should be prepared with coconut peat and compost. Since coconut peat is added, the roots will be in tact when the sapling is removed from the tray. After the saplings have grown, they can be replanted in to the holes readied earlier. Organic farming is the best option for Red Lady.
If cultivated commercially, it is better to opt for drip irrigation. Even organic manure can be given through this system.
In case of organic farming, make a mixture of cow dung (preferably from Indian breed) neem oil cake powder, and ground nut cake powder in water. Once the water mixture is fermented, pour it to the saplings, once in every 10 days. Spray a mixture of zinc, calcium, and magnesium dissolved in water to compensate the lack of micronutrients. This helps in fighting fungal infections. Make a mixture of pseudomonas in tender coconut water, leave for 4 hours and then spray on the plant, so that leaves won’t turn sallow in monsoon season. Proper watering is compulsory if there are no rains. If taken care well, papaya will bear fruits for up to 2.5 years.
Papaya is the seat of minerals, vitamins A, B, B2 and C. It has also papain, calcium, iron, and phosphorus. The leaves of papaya has alkaloid called carpaine. Papaya is widely used in Ayurveda. It’s sap is used in the treatment of warts, caruncle, corns and calluses. Papaya sap is also used in treating psoriasis, and ringworm infections. Papaya has the ability to digest meat. Adding a few pieces of papaya in curries will get meat cooked faster. Papain is a medically valuable enzyme found in papaya. Raw papaya has the ability to kill intestinal worms. Tasty jams are made from ripe papaya.Tuttifruiti used in bakery industry is made from raw papaya.
Generally the tree starts bearing fruit in 3months time, provided sufficient care has been given. The ripe ones are plucked and wrapped in newspapers. This procedure is done to enhance the colour. When wrapped in newspaper, it fully ripens in 2days and develops rich colour. An average papaya weighs 2-3kgs. Harvesting is done twice a week. If the papaya is farmed organically, it will stay fresh for a week. It can be sold for higher prices as well.