Dried papaya is a tropical fruit that has been placed in a dehydrator or food dryer until most of the moisture from the fruit has evaporated. Drying is one of many methods of preserving fruit for consumption during the seasons in which it doesn't grow. As it does not require refrigeration or special equipment, dried fruit is one of the least expensive ways to preserve food.
Papaya is an oblong fruit with green skin and bright orange flesh. The fruit is nutritionally rich, with substantial amounts of beta-carotene and vitamin C. Papaya is also rich in antioxidants and fiber as well as many other beneficial vitamins and minerals. The fruit is often helpful with digestive problems, such as constipation or nausea. Although most papayas found in a supermarket weigh 1 to 2 pounds (0.45 to 0.91 kg) and are only 6 inches (15 cm) long, papayas can grow up to 20 pounds (9.1 kg) and 20 inches (50 cm) long.
Typically, only the flesh of the papaya is dehydrated. The seeds and skin are discarded, and the fruit is cut into whatever shape is desired. Usually, cubes or slices are preferred, since they dehydrate faster than halves. Using either a dehydrator or an oven set at or slightly below 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius), the fruit is slowly dried over several hours. Any faster and vitamins and other nutritional benefits of the fruit are destroyed.
Another method of fruit dehydration is called fruit leather. This uses the papaya fruit in a pureed form. Different ingredients, such as other fruits and spices, can be added to the puree for a variety of flavors. The puree is spread on solid dehydrating sheets or a pan and dried for 12 to 16 hours. The result is a pliable fruit snack.
Dried papaya can be made at home using a kitchen dehydrator or oven. The method is the same. The fruit is dried slowly over several hours. The fruit leather is also easy to make, and many recipes are available online for different flavors and combinations of fruit. Home drying fruit is popular because the amount of added sugars and preservatives can be directly controlled, while the additives in commercially packaged fruits cannot.
The dried papaya can be eaten alone as a snack or as a supplement to a meal. It can also be used in baking and cooking. Some dried fruit, like bananas, actually result in a crunchy, chip-like food, but dried papaya is typically more moist, with a chewy texture. If desired, dried papaya can be rehydrated by placing it in hot water for 15 minutes. Rehydrated fruits can replace fresh fruits in most baking and cooking recipes.