While most of the projects presented at the Children’s Science Congress focused on electricity, its use and management, one project stood out because it had made a hero out of an unlikely candidate when it comes to energy conservation - the papaya.
The team from GVHSS, Omanoor, Malappuram, made an experiment of traditional wisdom - unripe papaya is used to tenderise meat - to test its role as an ‘energy saver.’
“We have heard that the sap of the unripe papaya was collected and used to tenderise or marinate meat,” said Manjima A P, a plus-one student of the school who presented the project. “This is because of the enzyme papain, which softens the meat.”
Armed with the knowledge, the students decided to see if the cooking time of pulses and meat can be reduced by the addition of raw papaya.
“We tested the cooking time of beef, chicken, Bengal gram and dal (both soaked and unsoaked) by adding chunks of raw papaya and without them as well,” said Manjima. “We found that the cooking time had indeed reduced significantly when papaya was added. For example, 100 g of unsoaked Bengal gram took 95 minutes to cook without the papaya but needed only 30 minutes with 20 g of it.”
Asked about the use of pressure cookers, she said, “Five whistles of the cooker were needed without the papaya but only two whistles with it.”
The enzyme papain, said her teacher-guide Sreeja K, works to soften the food material and helps reduce cooking time and therefore improves fuel efficiency.
“Furthermore, we were successful in extracting lycopene pigment from the papaya which has antioxidant properties,” said Sreeja. “So papaya has tremendous medicinal value as well.”
The results, they said, were discussed with scientists and academics of various institutions like Centre for Medicinal Plants Research, Kottakkal; Centre for Water Resource and Management, Kozhikode; University of Calicut and Biotechnology Department of Sree Chitra College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram.