The papaya is a large, tree-like plant, with a single stem growing from 5 to 10 m (16 to 33 ft) tall, with spirally arranged leaves confined to the top of the trunk. The lower trunk is conspicuously scarred where leaves and fruit were borne. The leaves are large, 50–70 cm (20–28 in) in diameter, deeply palmately lobed, with seven lobes.
Carica papaya was the first transgenic fruit tree to have its genome sequenced.
Papaya plants grow in three sexes: male, female, and hermaphrodite. The male produces only pollen, never fruit. The female will produce small, inedible fruits unless pollinated.
Originally from southern Mexico (particularly Chiapas and Veracruz), Central America, and northern South America, the papaya is now cultivated in most tropical countries.
The ripe fruit of the papaya is usually eaten raw, without skin or seeds. The unripe green fruit can be eaten cooked, usually in curries, salads, and stews.
Papaya skin, pulp and seeds contain a variety of phytochemicals, including carotenoids and polyphenols.
Papaya releases a latex fluid when not ripe, possibly causing irritation and an allergic reaction in some people.
The black seeds of the papaya are edible and have a sharp, spicy taste. They are sometimes ground and used as a substitute for black pepper.