Saturday, September 28, 2013

Grocery Store Gardening: Papaya

No need to give kindergarteners beans to grow in their paper cups if you can get a papaya. Papayas are just about as easy to grow, nearly as fast, and there are enough seeds for the whole class in one fruit.

A few months ago, I bought a papaya and saved the seeds. I folded them up in a paper napkin to let them dry for a while, but a while turned into a long while, and by the time I got back to them I didn't have much faith in their viability. I almost tossed them, but on the way to the trash can, I thought what the heck, I'll just tuck them into a container plant and see what happens.

My hosta had some extra room and I literally threw the seeds in beside it. I scratched a few of them into the surface. And then, if you know me by now, you have guessed that I forgot I did that. So a congested little group of "something" sprouted in the pot with the hosta. Hmm. What in the world? I thought about it and then googled "seedlings with round seed leaves" and other thought strings I could come up with.

Finally, I went outside and dug up one of the sprouts. It had a black wrinkly seed coat still attached. Oh yeah! I had put dozens of those seeds in this container—that papaya!—I think all of them must have sprouted.

Once the mystery was solved, I looked up papaya and found out that they don't transplant well and, if you live in the tropics, you should just plant them where you intend to leave them. Since I had a hundred babies crowded under a hosta leaf, I had to dig them out and hope for the best.

I put a clump of several seedlings into a small pot and another clump in the garden. I never really outgrew kindergarten myself; I'm always experimenting.

As the seedlings grew, I cut off the smallest and weakest at soil level.

Eventually there was one plant left in the pot and one in the garden.

The garden plant is the one at the top of this post. It is many times larger than the one in the pot (above). I really can't account for that. And it's too bad the garden one is doing best, because that one is probably doomed. I might decide to try digging it up before frost, but even if cold doesn't kill it, transplantation likely will.

Anyway, I'm pretty excited that these seeds sprouted so well and that I have a tiny papaya tree to take inside this winter. (And an avocado tree, too!) I think I would like to try mango next. Or maybe starfruit. What do you think? Any suggestions?


PS The cooked leaves of papaya are reported to be edible, so I might have found a new source for bits of green to eat this winter. I will let you know.

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