The primary use of the papaya is as an edible fruit. It is usually eaten raw, without the skin or seeds. The unripe green fruit of papaya can be eaten cooked usually in curries, salads and stews. It is a small unbranched tree, the single stem growing to 5-10 m tall, with the spirally arranged leaves confined to the top of the trunk; the lower trunk is conspicuously scarred with the leaf scars of where older leaves and fruit were borne. The leaves are large, 50-70 cm diameter, deeply palmately lobed with 7 lobes. The flowers, similar to the flowers of the Frangipani, are produced in the axils of the leaves, maturing into the large 15-45 cm long, 10-30 cm diameter fruit. The fruit is ripe when it feels soft (like a ripe avocado or a bit softer) and its skin has attained an amber to orange hue. Papaya are also know as papoyas in Japan.
Papaya is rich in an enzyme called papain (a protease which is useful in tenderizing meat) and other proteins. Its utility is in breaking down the tough meat fibers. Papaya enzyme is also marketed in tablet form to remedy digestive problems. Women in India and Sri Lanka and other parts of the world have long used papaya as a folk remedy for contraception and abortion. Medical research in animals has confirmed the contraceptive and abortifacient capability of papaya, and also found that papaya seeds have contraceptive effects in adult male langur monkeys, possibly in adult male humans as well. Unripe papaya is especially effective, in large amounts or high doses. Papaya is not teratogenic and will not cause miscarriage in small, ripe amounts. Phytochemicals in papaya may suppress the effects of progesterone.
The black seeds are edible, and have a sharp, spicy taste. They are sometimes ground up and used as a substitute for black pepper. In some parts of Asia the young leaves of papaya are steamed and eaten like spinach.