The arequipeña papaya is the fruit of a plant belonging to the Caricacee family, a native of the Andian area between Bolivia and Peru. This arboreal cultivation is particularly widespread in the southern part of the Peruvian state, mainly in the mountainous Department of Cusco and even more so in the districts of the Province of Arequipa. It generally grow at altitudes between 2,000 and 3,000 metres above sea level, in the vegetable patches of small local farmers. It prefers a mild climate (12-18 degrees) and annual rainfall of 500-1,000 mm. The arequipeña papaya is a shrub that grows to a maximum height of 2 metres with a palm-like shape. It first flowers a year after final planting and a single plant can produce up to 200 fruits. Harvest takes part between spring and autumn every 3-4 months. The Andean variety is smaller than the tropical papaya, with a surface divided into 5 sides. The arequipeña papaya has a smooth skin that is orange-yellow in colour and contains a juicy and sour pulp. It is generally eaten fresh or used to make jams, ice-creams and sweets. It is also used in soups and stews. The pulp and the seeds are consumed that give a spicy taste to the food. The immature fruit creates a substance rich in papain that is used to soften the cuts of meat. The same milky liquid possesses qualities that can be used to combat tooth decay. The papaya and its derivatives strengthen the immune system, promote digestion and have an anti-inflammatory effect. Its very limited production is almost entirely destined for local consumption, also because the product is not very well known and the more competitive prices of tropical papaya impede widespread distribution. There are local programmes designed to protect the production of this product such as “Dia de la papaya arequipeña” celebrated on the first day of December in the Province of Arequipa.
It is generally eaten fresh or used to make jams, ice-creams and sweets. It is also used in soups and stews. The pulp and the seeds are consumed that give a spicy taste to the food.