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Carica papaya (‘Solo Sunrise’ and ‘Waimanolo’)

Life: Perennial

Size: 15'

Light: Full Sun

Water: Moist in heat, Very Little in cold, Excellent Drainage at all times

Soil: Light and Fertile

A picky, tender little tree, but it produces such delicious fruit that it's worth it to tend it carefully. Papayas are believed to be native to southern Mexico and other Central American areas, but they are now grown in most every tropical and subtropical country; these two cultivars are from Hawaii. They are extremely sensitive to both cold and excess moisture, and should be planted on a mound in a sunny, well-protected place to ensure proper drainage. They can also be kept in a large pot for easier protection. A light frost can damage the foliage and spoil the fruit's taste; a freeze will usually kill it. They also dislike wind, but will tollerate it without too much detriment. However, they are normally neat and tidy plants, having only a single trunk unless damage causes branching. The leaves are large and the beautiful, creamy white flowers have a delightful little fragrance.

Of course, it's the fruit that most papayas are grown for. ‘Solo Sunrise’ has firm, sweet pulp of a pinkish-orange hue, about 1½ pounds per fruit, and begins bearing when about 3' tall; ‘Waimanolo’ has sweet pulp in a yellow-orange color, about 2 pounds per fruit, and will normally begin bearing when 4-5' tall. Both are juicy and sweet, with a flavor similar to canteloupe, and will often begin fruitation within their first year. When harvesting, pick the fruits when the skin is mostly yellow-green and ripen them the rest of the way indoors at room temperature until the skin is almost entirely yellow and a little soft to the touch; leaving them on the plant to ripen can result in the fruit falling off and splattering everywhere, making a mess at the base of your plants (the birds may eat it, but you likely won't want to). The seeds are also edible and have a spicy taste like black pepper. Unripe, green fruits should not be eaten raw because of the latex they contain, though they can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable. Young leaves can also be cooked and eaten, similar to spinach.