The Unpredictable Golden Papaya

Let’s discover how a golden papaya grew well in Lanao del norte, Philippines. 

By Zac Sarian

If you are planting the ordinary papaya (not hybrid), you will never know what will come out. But what might come out might not be bad at all. It could be something of a gem.

Just like when we planted the seeds from a round fruit of a Golden Papaya. In 2015, we visited Lanao del Norte upon the invitation of Cong. Abdullah Dimaporo. Along the way to an ecological park, we spotted a Golden Papaya in a house along the road which turned out to be that of Mrs. Teresita Bartolo.

Cross section of the elongated fruit. It is fleshy and has a small cavity.

We’d seen the Golden Papaya many years ago but it was only in 2015 that we saw one again. It is a fascinating variety because even the immature fruits look ripe because they are golden yellow.

Mrs. Bartolo was very accommodating. She welcomed us to her house and harvested one ripe fruit for us to taste. The fruit was very round, and could have easily weighed more than a kilo. When it was opened, the flesh was very red and quite thick. It was sweet and juicy.

She was gracious enough to share with us the seeds, which we germinated in our little farm in Teresa, Rizal. The seedlings we produced had the original characteristic yellowish green leaves.

When we planted the seedlings, most of the yellow ones succumbed to the harsh weather in our place. What were left were a couple of plants that had green leaves. No more the golden leaves we had admired in Lanao.

We were really surprised that instead of producing the big round fruits from which we got the seeds for planting, the fruits were elongated. We harvested one fruit on August 15, 2017, when it had a color break of yellow. The fruit was 13 inches long with a diameter of about three inches. The small cavity was full of seeds, some of which were already starting to sprout when we finally opened the fruit two weeks later.

Oh yes, it took a long time for the fruit to become more or less soft and ready for eating.

What we liked about the elongated fruit is that it is sweet and fleshy. Since it takes a long time for it to become fully ripe from color break, that means it has a very good shipping quality. If we could only stabilize the characteristics of the elongated fruit, that would be very good commercial cultivar. 

Anyway, we are germinating some seeds. We will have to find out what other surprises the once-golden-papaya will bring us.

This story appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s October 2017 issue. 

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