So Berry Good: Part II

There are many varieties of papaya .   The kamiah papaya is a genetically modified variety from Hawaii.  The Mexican red is very sweet and larger than the Hawaiian varieties.  The Mexican yellow has a firmer texture than the Mexican red and is not as sweet. 

The Solo is the most common variety of papaya and is bisexual (not kinky in the plant kingdom.)  The solo papaya plant will not produce any male trees so each plant will provide fruit.  However, much of the solo variety is from Hawaii.  It seems that most papaya from Hawaii is now genetically modified due to cross-contamination

Our Papaya Tree

Our papaya tree produced prolifically for us over the past two years, but… we want to plant more.  The papaya tree peaks in the second year and usually declines after that.  We have two red maradols (Caribbean red) and a Hawaiian sunrise planted for this year.  We obtained our Hawaiian sunrise variety from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.  They only sell organic and non-GMO seeds. We bought  two young red maradols from Echo Nursery in N. Ft. Myers, Florida that are bisexual.

We will be able to plant the seeds from these and there is a high probability that the seeds will be bisexual too.  These red maradols are not supposed to be genetically modified , but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.  They are, however,  a hybrid,  which is different from being genetically modified

Young Papaya Plants

Papaya is usually grown from seed.  The plant will reach about 10-15 feet in height and should give you fruit (a berry) within the first year of planting because it grows quickly.  The papaya tree has high water requirements and shallow roots.  It  must have warmth throughout the year and needs at least 10 months of heat to set fruit.  They grow well in a container.  

Some papaya plants have only short-stemmed female flowers.  Other papaya plants may have only male flowers on long stalks.  Some plants have both male and female plants (bisexual).  Sometimes the plant will change from male to female after being beheaded (garden language – don’t be scared.)  Pollination is usually necessary for fruit set and is done so at night by moths (and you thought all they did was fly around light bulbs.)   

Male Papaya Tree

Only female plants produce fruit.  One male plant is needed for every 15-25 females (bulls, roosters and papayas… every man’s dream life.)  If you have a bisexual papaya plant (solo variety),  it will act as its own pollen source for its flowers and nearby female flowers and will give you fruit. 

The non-GMO Hawaiian sunrise seeds that we germinated will be an assortment of male and female plants.  We are germinating all of them.  When they start to flower, we will compost all the males except for one (the dream ends here.)  We don’t have to do that with our red maradols.  Only one plant is needed to produce fruit. 

There are many pests that attack papayas in each region they grow.  In Florida they are susceptible to webworms, papaya fruit and white flies.  Florida also has a problem with nematodes in the soil that cause damage to the roots.  Mulching helps with the nematode problem.  Fungal and viral diseases can also be  problems.

I expected to have difficulties when we started growing papaya because we lots of pests and nematodes.  So far we have had no problems and a bountiful harvest. 

The orange-ish yellow fruit is ready to be harvested when the tip turns yellow.  I like my papayas to be really ripe, so I wait until they don’t look so picture-perfect on the tree anymore.  They bruise easily when they are ripe so they must be handled with care. 

A Ripe Papaya

Now… don’t you feel berry educated about this fabulous fruit?

Come grow with us!

13 Responses to “So Berry Good: Part II”

  1. i like this articles

  2. youvone dain Says:

    Thank you, Yes I feel educated. I have a male papya / bisex plant Did not know before this note.

  3. bill stein Says:

    i PLANTED PAPAYA SEEDS IN APRIL 2012 IN MY GARDEN. WHEN I LEFT THE AREA IN MAY , THE PLANT had grown to a
    an height of 1 1/2 feet. Upon returning to my home on 9/15, i saw a
    6 ft., fruit-bearing specimen with about 25-30 developing fruits. To
    date, all the fruits are still a developing green color (some are easily
    3-5 lbs. in weight. How much longer will they take to ripen? Is there
    a way to speed up the ripening process?

    • I learned to speed up the ripening of my naseberries by putting them in a paper bag with an apple and closing the bag to trap the ethylene gas. I think this could work with your papayas since you can still reach your fruit. You could tie a paper bag around the fruit and place the apple inside.

      OR, you could make a green papaya salad. My Vietnamese friend turned me onto this recently. It’s so delicious! Peel the outside skin of a green papaya and discard. Shred the inside finely and place in a bowl. Then mash up some garlic with a mortar & pestle. Mix the garlic with a tablespoon of sugar and mash it together with some hot chili peppers. Squeeze an entire lime into it and 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. I like a lot of lime, sugar and a little bit of fish sauce. Can also add dried shrimp on top… yum!

  4. Baker Creek Heirloom Seed co. sells the “Sunrise” papaya seed as non-GMO??? I am shocked!!! That is the most commonly grown GMO plant in Hawaii.

    • I’ve been told recently that all papaya is going to be GMO soon if it isn’t already. I was told that all papaya in Hawaii is now GM.

      I just did a search for papaya on Baker Creek’s website and they’re not selling any papaya seeds at all anymore.

      • It’s really quite simple to obtain seed from a “store bought” papaya. Remove the seeds, clean off the fleshy covering, and allow to dry for a couple days. having done this, they should germinate in less than a week.

  5. Due to my health I have started to grow my own non-GMO organic vegetables and wanted to include papaya and pineapple. Can’t find a single source for either. This is terrifying to say the least. Do you have any ideas where to get the seeds for papaya. I know pineapple will take forever.

    • I do not know where to find non-GMO papaya seeds anymore. I’m not even sure they can be found.

      Pineapple does have a long wait for harvestable fruit but they are worth the wait!

  6. I bought waimanalo low bearing solo papaya seeds, baker creek heirloom seed co. from the museum store of the Edison estate in Ft Myers, FL last winter.

  7. I have a papaya plant someone had started 2 years ago. I have been keeping it in a green house until this summer and planted it in a raised bed. The problem is I live in zone 8 in Georgia. The tree is 5 ft tall and has 14 fruit and blooming like crazy. Have been taking off new blooms and smaller fruit hoping it will help the other fruit get bigger before colder weather. It was 65 last night. What temp is too cold for the tree ? Can I cover the tree up until fruit ripens ? Will I be able to dig up tree and put back in pot for green house during winter or am I gonna loose it ?

    • I live in Lafaayette, LA. My plants were raised from store seed and they looked beatiful all summer. One 6 ft tall plant made fruits but it never got to ripen. A freeze to them all ot. I tried to cover them, even put out electric heaters but lost all. This was two years ago in an very cold winter. This winter my plants are all in pots and I put them out and bring them in depending on the overnight temperature. They are alive but I sure cant wait to put them in the ground soon so they can develop naturally outside.

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