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Is Thanksgiving dinner tried-and-true or innovative and creative?

Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals in Homestead, FL, told The Produce News that while it is nice to know the green bean casserole will always be there, she likes a touch of the unexpected at a festive meal.

"I find converting traditionalists to my way of thinking works best when the must-have menu items appear on the table with just a little tweak to them," she said. “So whether someone is hosting the dinner or bringing a dish to another home this year, they should think about mixing it up a bit. And there's no better way to splash some sunshine onto a holiday table than with fresh papaya.”

Ms. Ostlund said that Brooks’ “Caribbean Red” brand papayas from Belize are becoming more well known among consumers for their high quality and flavor. Consumers are also learning the importance of reducing the amount of sugar in their diets — and substituting papaya for sugar- and fructose-loaded processed foods — is a great way to do so without sacrificing flavor.

“Papayas are between 10 and 12 on the Brix scale,” said Ms. Ostlund. “The mild flavor does not hide other flavors but rather integrates nicely with them. Part of the Thanksgiving celebration is to talk about the foods on the table and what is in them. Adding and substituting papaya will certainly help to create an interesting conversation.”

An added benefit is that papayas are plentiful this time of year. And because of their large size, one papaya can go a long way and end up being a cost- effective ingredient when feeding a large crowd.

“What I also like is that they can be used in a multitude of ways, from a savory-flavored recipe to dessert. And not to be overlooked is the drop-dead gorgeous color they add to any dish,” said Ms. Ostlund.

One of the suggestions Brooks Tropicals makes is to top turkey stuffing with diced papaya to add color to what is typically a drab-looking dish and to add a hint of sweetness.

“Gently stir in finely diced papaya to homemade cranberry relish,” Ms. Ostlund suggested. “It adds a nice texture and, again, offers that beautiful color. Mash pureed papaya into mashed potatoes for a creamier texture and a bit of sweetness.

“Papaya apple pie is a terrific version of the traditional baker’s classic that will please even the die-hard apple pie fans,” she continued.

Brooks Tropicals has created a colorful marketing brochure with suggestions on how to use papaya in Thanksgiving dishes. The brochure, which features recipes and beautiful photos of finished dishes, is being distributing to media outlets across the country.