Such Succulent Sunrise Papayas

Elmer Viernes with his Sunrise papayas. Daniel Lane photos

Elmer Viernes grows on 40 acres at Kilohana Plantation. The majority of his produce supplies 22 North and Luau Kalamaku at Kilohana restaurants.

What’s growing: Apple banana, beets, bitter melon, bok choy, cherry tomato, eggplant, herbs, ginger, green onion, jicama, long beans, okra, peanuts, pineapple, pumpkin, sunrise papaya, sweet potato, wing beans.


Popular by its nickname “strawberry” papaya, Sunrise has a freckled greenish-yellow skin that turns yellow as the fruit ripens, but inside is a juicy, dramatic red-orange color flesh. SunUp is the genetically engineered papaya of the red-flesh variety that is resistant to the ringspot virus disease.

Viernes’ papaya orchard at Kilohana Plantation

Season: In Hawaii, papayas can be found year round with the peak season being early summer and fall.

What to look for: Look for papayas that are partly or completely yellow in color. They should give slightly to pressure, but are not soft at the stem end. Avoid papayas that are bruised, shriveled or have soft areas.

Storage: Ripe papayas can be placed in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator. Papayas will keep for up to a week, but it is best to eat them within a day or two.

Tip: Papayas that are hard and green are immature and will not ripen properly. Uncut papayas have no smell. Papayas that are cut should smell sweet, not bad or fermented.

Sunrise papayas have a juicy, red-orange flesh

Preparation: To remove the delicate flesh, cut the fruit in half and scoop out the seeds. Take a sharp knife and place it at 11 o’clock. Make 1/4-inch slices at an angle, along the length of the papaya, but don’t pierce the skin. Rotate your knife 90 degrees to 1 o’clock, and make slices until you get a cross-hatch pattern. Scoop out the chunks with a spoon.

Health benefits: An average papaya has 313 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. They are an excellent source of vitamin E and betacarotene, and are rich in enzymes that aid in digesting proteins. Papayas are so healthy, they ranked in the top five of the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s list of “Fantastic Fruit.”

Elmer’s Farm produce can be found at: Kilohana Plantation’s restaurant 22 North and its Luau Kalamaku. Farmers markets: Kukui Grove Mondays at 3 p.m.; Kapa’a Wednesdays at 3 p.m.; Vidinha Stadium Fridays at 3 p.m.; Kaua’i Community College Saturday at 10 a.m. Call 652-4201 for details.

Papaya salsa pairs well with seared ahi. Daniel Lane photos


I came up with this recipe because I had an abundance of produce from the farmers market. The salsa is fantastic served over grilled chicken or fish. It makes a great dip for chips, or try a little on your morning eggs. Tomatillos are tangy and add a pleasant counterbalance to the sweet papaya.

* 1 papaya, sectioned as described above
* 1 avocado, sectioned like the papaya
* 2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
* 1-inch piece of Elmer’s ginger, pressed through a garlic press
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1 Hawaiian chili pepper, thinly sliced

Hawaii papayas are pear-shaped

* 10 cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters
* 8 tomatillos, diced
* 1 lime, juiced
* 1 lilikoi, juiced l
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and serve.

Makes about 2 cups.