papaya (pəpĪˈə) [key], soft-stemmed tree ( Carica papaya ) of tropical America resembling a palm with a crown of palmately lobed leaves. It is cultivated for its melonlike yellow fruits eaten raw or cooked and, more recently, for the juice which has become a commercial item. The juice contains the enzyme papain, somewhat similar to pepsin and digestant in action; the enzyme is used in commercial meat tenderizers. The papaya is also called melon tree and pawpaw. In the Caribbean area the fruit is called fruta bomba. Several other Andean species, as well as the genus Jacartia, also have edible fruits. The papaya is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Violales, family Caricaceae.
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