Mamão is a fruit of the tree Carica Papaya. Native to southern Mexico, mamão is grown in many tropical countries, with Brazil being one of the largest producers today.
The tree-like plant which the mamão grows from has a single stem that stretches from 5 to 10m (16 to 33ft) tall. The large leaves are confined to the top of the tree and fruit are produced throughout the whole year. The flowers of the tree determine the shape, amount of pulp, and flavor of the fruit that it will produce. The Carica Papaya tree has masculine, feminine, and hermaphroditic flowers. The masculine flowers produce a fruit that is pear shaped and have no commercial value. The feminine flowers produce fruit that are round and have little pulp, resulting in fruit that also has a low commercial value. The hermaphroditic flowers produce the most desired fruit, they are long with lots of juicy pulp.
What we know as papaya in the USA is actually just one variety of mamão that is found in Brazil. There are many different varieties of mamão in Brazil, ranging from small to large. Brazilians, most commonly, eat the larger mamão variety known as mamão comprido. Although the flavor across mamão variaties must certainly change, I have not tried enough of the mamão variaties to have a good opinion on this. Instead, I will just say that no matter which mamão you decide to try it will be tasty and worth it.
Mamão is used for so many different things in Brazil and is so easy to find that it is one of those fruits that is a MUST TRY when you visit. Used in drinks, like the absolutely amazing vitamina, or desserts, or eaten just like that, it is a fruit that becomes very addicting.
The papaya that can be found in the USA is much smaller than those in Brazil, but besides that there are not many differences. The skin is green when not ripe and yellow when ripe. Soft to the touch, like an avocado, tells you that the papaya is ready to eat. The flesh is always a beautiful reddish-orange. Remove the interestingly round-black seeds and dig into this deliciously delicate fruit.
Sexagem do mamoeiro e sua aplicação na produção (http://www.ceplac.gov.br/radar/Artigos/artigo39.htm)
Wikipedia: Papaya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papaya)
Wikipedia: Mamão (http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mam%C3%A3o)
Cultura – Mamão (http://www.seagri.ba.gov.br/Mamao.htm)