Papaya plants, although as tall as many trees, are not technically trees. The stems of papaya plants grow very tall, yielding what some call “tree melons.” Papayas will become large and heavy as they mature in clusters on the plants. Watch the papayas carefully so you will know when a papaya on a tree is ready to pick. For the most flavorful fruit, do not pick the papaya before it matures completely.
Watch the papaya plants from about six months after planting so you can monitor the fruit as it gets closer to harvest time. Depending on your location and the temperatures after you plant a papaya plant, you may have mature papayas six months or up to nine months after planting.
Pick papayas when you first see the green skin turning yellow. This is the earliest you should ever pick papaya fruits. When completely immature, papayas are dark green. As they slowly ripen, the green skin transforms into a deep yellow skin.
A mostly green papaya with only a small amount of yellow in the skin will not be completely ripe at picking, but if you leave it to ripen at room temperature, it will continue to turn yellow and develop more flavor.
Wait to pick papayas until approximately 80 percent of the papaya skin is yellow for the most flavor. The longer you wait to pick papayas from the trees, the richer and more tender the pulp.
Tips & Warnings
- Twist a papaya at the stem to remove it from a tree. If the papaya does not come off easily, cut it off with a pruning shears or knife.
- Papayas are very fragile after they are harvested. Scratching the papaya skins may cause seeping and leaking from the papayas.