The mountain papaya, also known as Chilean papaya, mountain pawpaw, papayuelo, or carica, is native to the Andes of northwestern South America from Colombia south to central Chile.
The fruit is 6–15 cm long and 3–8 cm broad, with five broad longitudinal ribs from base to apex; it is green, maturing yellow to orange. The fruit pulp is edible, similar to papaya, and is usually cooked as a vegetable. It is also eaten raw.
The inside is a little jelly-like with rather pretty seeds that almost look like mini pine cones. Its more elaborate appearance is in a dessert called “dulce de papayuela”. The flavour is elusive – fresh and subtle, a little like pineapple, strawberry, and orange together.
Dulce de Papayuela Recipe
1 1/2 qts. water
1/4 cup baking powder
2 lbs. fresh, ripe mountain papaya
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick
Completely peel the mountain papaya, take out the seeds and cut into 1 inch chunks. Set aside.
Dissolve the baking powder in the water in a large plastic or non-reactive bowl.
Add the mountain papaya and soak it for about 5 minutes. Drain it and rinse it well under cold running water.
Put the mountain papaya in a large pot and cook it with the sugar, covered, and on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, but, do not add water. (The papaya has lots of juice therefore it will cook in its own juice)
After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to very, very low and add the vanilla extract and cinnamon stick.
Simmer the papaya, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until the juice thickens into thin syrup.
Remove the cinnamon stick and allow the mountain papaya to cool.
This is delicious served on top of slices of cream cheese or over vanilla or coconut ice cream.
Serve the mountain papaya warm or chilled.
Store any leftover mountain papaya in the syrup in a tightly closed bowl or container of your choice in the refrigerator for up to five days.