This week's look at what's new, bountiful or mysterious in the produce aisles:
Comparing the Maradol papaya with the Hawaiian papaya is like comparing a football with a tennis ball. In fact, the elongated Maradol sort of resembles a football -- a big, yellowish-green football that can weigh four pounds or more. Inside, the flesh is sweet and reddish-orange with a center cavity filled with slippery black seeds.
The Maradol species of papaya comes to this country primarily from Mexico and Central America. Although Maradol is the name you'll find on the Mexican papayas from the West Coast, shoppers in East Coast markets are more likely to get these papayas from Belize with stickers that say Caribbean Sunrise or Caribbean Red, says Frans Boetes with Brooks Tropicals, a specialty produce supplier in Homestead, Fla., that owns papaya plantations in Belize. Maradols are often eaten raw with a squeeze of lime juice and a dusting of chili powder, but their mild flavor is also good in cooked dishes.
NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION: Papayas, whether they have yellow, pink or red flesh, are good sources of vitamins C and A. They're also high in potassium and calcium, a good source of fiber, and low in calories -- about 55 per cup.
HOW TO SELECT AND STORE: Look for yellowish-green skin that yields to gentle pressure when held. Avoid papayas with soft brown spots or mold. Fruit will ripen at room temperature and become fragrant. Eat soon after ripening. Avoid refrigeration; chilling will reduce its mild flavor. If you must refrigerate, do it only after the fruit has ripened fully. Serve within a day or two.
HOW TO PREPARE: Add chunks of the raw fruit to ice cream or yogurt smoothies. Cubes of papaya are a nice contrast in a fruit salad with pineapple, strawberries, orange and banana. Top with a little shaved coconut and a squirt of lime juice. Instead of melon, wrap slices of prosciutto around slices of papaya. Diced papaya and mango with red onion and chilis make a fiery sweet salsa that's good with grilled chicken or fish.
In cooked dishes, use papaya puree in a spicy barbecue sauce that's brushed on grilled chicken. Saute sliced papaya with shrimp, ginger, lime juice and cilantro. You can even make a tropical coffee cake baked with a topping of sweetened sour cream and sliced papaya. Serve warm.
-- Candy Sagon