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Jan 28, 2009 07:43 PM

Is Papaya Supposed to Burn When You Eat It?

Went to a generic "Thai" place here for dinner. Didn't want to get a huge meal because I was headed to the gym after so I settled on soup and salad. Soup was a shrimp coconut, salad was a papaya salad.

Soup was nothing remarkable, but it was a gourmet treat compared to the papaya salad.

Every mouthful burned, not in the "oh my, someone put one too many bird chilies in the dressing" but in the "oh my, someone mistakenly put dry cleaning fluid in the dressing".

Now, I have never had papaya before. I know it can be used to tenderize meat, but I was hoping that wouldn't include my tongue and cheek lining.

Couldn't finish it. Waiter didn't ask me how it was as he took it away, surprise, surprise.

So, papaya lovers, is this normal? Was the fruit past its prime? Or did they just screw up the dressing with who knows what inside?

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  1. First, was this green papaya? Green papaya is sometimes used in Thai salads. Another poster can advise you about burning if your salad was made with the unripe fruit as I have never eaten green papaya and don't know whether it burns, but some unripe fruits are irritating and astringent (try persimmon). If you buy a papaya, keep it in a paper grocery bag with the top clipped shut until it is so ripe that it looks as if it's starting to rot around the edges then wash it, peel it, and enjoy it----the flesh will be very mellow---at least, I must have eaten a hundred papayas and have never been burned by one. Second, are you sure the fruit didn't have some hot chili on it?

    1. Whether it was green or not is immaterial. If you're sure there was no chile in it (and different types of chiles can produce different types of burn in your mouth), you may be allergic to papaya. I have not enjoyed cantaloupe for years because it leaves a slight "stinging" feeling in my mouth. Never knew the reason why, but then read a newspaper article that said that was a symptom of an allergy.

      1. You may have had an allergic reaction, especially if the papaya was very green

        from Wikipedia

        Caution should be taken when harvesting, as papaya is known to release a latex fluid when not quite ripe, which can cause irritation and provoke allergic reaction in some people. The papaya fruit, seeds, latex, and leaves also contains carpaine, an anthelmintic alkaloid which could be dangerous in high doses.

        1. Both papaya and mango can be trouble to susceptible individuals. Having cut up a very flavorful and juicy mango one time and not wanting to waste one bit of flesh, I ate the delicious flesh remaining on the skin by chewing it off, resulting in a very painful and uncomfortable burn all around my mouth and on my lips that took more than a week to heal!

          3 Replies
          1. re: janniecooks

            Mango (and cashew nuts) can cause reaction in people for a different reason than papaya. Mango is similar to poison ivy in the respect that both plants contain urushiol, the chemical that causes the rash and reaction. I'm not an expert but I think they may be in the same plant family (?).

            1. re: HaagenDazs

              Yes, mango, pistacchio and cashew, and poison ivy are in the same family and it's often the urushiol oil what causes the reaction. My daughter is severely allergic. Papaya is not in the same group. But, it does sound like the OP may have had an allergic reaction. Some people have the same reaction to cinnamon and don't realize it's an allergy.

              1. re: chowser

                Cinnamon can do that to me (makes me want to scratch my gums off, they burn so badly), and that's exactly what I was thinking of when I read the title of this thread. It sounds like an allergy to me. Yuck.

          2. Must be some sort of allergy, the burn was different from anything I've ever had from a chili pepper (and I've had plenty). It was hard to say whether it was green or not, the salad was presented as some long thin shreds of papaya and maybe carrot with crushed peanuts and some kind of dressing underneath.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Pincus

              I, too, thought this sounded like an allergic reaction. I have issues with certain blue cheeses. When I ate one recently, I had a distinct tingling feeling on my tongue and thought, "Uh-oh!" so I called the pharmacist. I took a pill similar to Benadryl and was fine the next day. He cautioned me against eating the cheese again because the next allergic reaction you have can be more severe (e.g. anaphalactic). So please be careful, OK? And I will do the same. It's so crazy, really--I used to hate blue cheese. Guess my body was trying to tell me something.

              1. re: Pincus

                Were the "peanuts" actually cashews? Cashews in papaya salad are very common as well. Going back to my previous post, some people have reactions to cashew nuts that is different that a typical peanut or nut allergy.

                Are you particularly sensitive to poison ivy? Ever had problems with mango?

                1. re: HaagenDazs

                  Never ran into poison ivy, never had any problem with mango in any form.

                  1. re: Pincus

                    Who knows then... I should have clarified though, it's the mango skin that has some of the chemical in it. For instance, people that eat mango right out of the skin often get burning or tingling on their lips. See: janniecooks above.