When it comes to fruit trees, papayas are the closest thing you can get to instant gratification. They grow from seed to fruiting tree in under 12 months and then continue to bear all year long. They do not require any special oil sprays or treatments, and are tolerant of beginning gardeners.
They are a low-maintenance plant and their list of demands is small. They prefer full sun, but will make do with less. They can be container grown making them ideal for the apartment or condo gardener. The better the soil you plant them in, the more fruit you will get and the faster you will get it, but sandy soil is OK too as long as you fertilize them . If you really want to ignore a papaya tree, shade your chicken coop with one. The tree will be where the good fertilizer is and chickens love the dropped fruits. Papaya trees can’t take a hard freeze and usually don’t live more than 4 years, so plan on planting a new tree every two years or so and you will always have papayas.
The fruit itself can be eaten green or ripe. It is low in calories compared to other fruits and high in fiber. It contains Vitamin A, Complex B Vitamins, Potassium, Calcium, Beta Carotene, and more Vitamin C per serving than citrus fruits. The seeds are spicy and can be used as a black pepper substitute. In some cultures, the leaves of the tree are cooked and eaten like spinach, and the flower buds are thrown into stir fries.
Aside from food, the tree is a tropical medicine chest. Parts of the plant and fruit have been used for tenderizing meat, treating cuts and bruises, digestive issues, rope making, as an anti-inflammatory medicine, the treatment of worms, malaria, as a hair conditioner, and even as contraception both in males and females.
Quite a lot to get back from a tree that does not ask for much in return. If picking fresh tropical fruit from your own yard every week is one of your gardening goals, I suggest starting out with a papaya tree. You won’t be disappointed.