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Also known as Mountain Pawpaw, the Mountain Papaya is native to the Andes of South America and typically grown at higher altitudes, which makes it well suited to the temperatures here in our cool subtropical climate. In our experience this is the most hardy of the papaya species that can be grown here in Aotearoa.
It is a small tree growing to around 3 metres over time, with a thick trunk and minimal side branches which means it don’t take up much space in a garden. It is a low maintenance plant with low fertilizer and water needs, although it does need reasonably good drainage as it does not like wet feet. It can withstand light frosts once established and can grow in full sun or part shade.
Mountain Papaya can begin bearing within 2 years and will fruit heavily through winter. The fruit can be eaten fresh or cooked; to eat fresh you slice the fruit in half and scoop out the pulp in the center. The flavour is mild and tangy, somewhat reminiscent of a papaya or pineapple.
Male and female flowers are normally borne on different trees, and both are normally needed for fruit production. Both types of flowers produce fruit, although the female fruit are said to be better tasting. Our trees are seed grown, and we recommend 3-5 plants to have a good chance of getting both types.
A good addition to food forests due to its early and prolific winter fruiting, its ability to fruit in the shade, and because it is a tall, slender tree which quickly occupies the emergent layer for the first few years in a syntropic system.