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Papayas are sweet, fleshy fruits that are grown in many areas of the world. One method of preserving them is to make them into a chutney. Chutneys are condiments of Indian origin, where they are used to add flavor to everyday rice and curry dishes. Commonly, a chutney has a major ingredient such as a fruit, which needs to be preserved through the addition of substances like sugar or vinegar. Generally, a papaya chutney also contains a mix of spices and other ingredients to add flavor to the product.
When India and the surrounding regions of Asia were first colonized by Europeans, the Indians were making a food product called chatni, to go with their everyday rice and curry diet. Chatni was a condiment that the Indians added spoonfuls of to the their daily dishes to add extra flavor to, if individuals desired. When the first British colonizers came along, they found the chatni to their liking, but due to the language differences, called it chutney. They also brought back the idea of chutney to Britain, and to other parts of Europe.
Traditionally, chatni is made from fruit and spices. The Indians do also make other types of condiments, such as dry spicy powder, which also technically fall under the definition of chutney. Papaya chutney, however, typically is a wet chutney, as the fruit contains lots of water. Scientists think that the papaya tree originally came from South America, but with global trade in the 1600s, the seeds of the tree found its way around the world. At the beginning of the 21st century, the fruit was growing in far off warm places like Africa, Florida and India.
No one specific way exists to make papaya chutney, but commonly the fruit is crushed up to give the final product a soft texture. Sometimes people in India make papaya chutney without any preservatives, and just eat it the same day. Other times, the chutney maker adds ingredients to prevent spoilage, and packs the chutney into clean jars. Commercial manufacturers in the Western world typically sell the chutney in a sterilized jar. Often a chutney requires months to meld its flavors together before it is ready to be eaten.
Preservatives that traditionally form part of those papaya chutneys that can remain edible for months include sugar, salt and vinegar. The addition of one or more of these substances makes the papaya fruit ingredient inhospitable to microbial growth. If this was all that was added, the chutney would taste of sweetness, tartness and fruit. Chutney makers commonly add more flavorings to the product to make it more appealing to the consumer. These include a variety of spices and lime juice, and some chutneys are extremely spicy.
Indians place a spoonful or two of chutney onto the side of their plates so they can mix in a little with the rice and curry. Personal preference dictates how much chutney a diner uses, and it is commonly provided in a sharing dish so people can take as much as they want. Western dishes like ham, roast pork and even fish may benefit from chutney additions, and some people like to put chutney into their ham sandwiches.
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