Heavy-Duty Papaya Picker




About: I'm a refugee from Los Angeles, living in backwoods Puerto Rico for about 35 years now and loving it. I built my own home from discarded nylon fishnet and cement.

I have made several papaya pickers over the years, and this is my favorite.  It is on the heavy side, but it is strong. 

You get the papaya inside and just twist the picker around until the stem breaks.   The fishnet provides some friction and as the bucket walks around the trunk it raises the fruit and snaps the stem. 

The head is made out of a 5-gallon plastic bucket with the bottom cut off.  It has a fishnet liner that catches the papaya when it falls, with very little damage to the fruit. 

Papayas come male and female.  The males have smaller flowers, in clusters.  The females usually have larger, single flowers.  When I find I have males, I just eliminate them since they usually don't fruit.  The females will bear fruit without any males around, but some people still like to leave a male or two, if available space is not an issue.

Papayas make great smoothies.  I sometimes add a ripe banana for sweetness, wheat germ, and cinnamon or curry, along with some vegetarian milk.  I try to avoid refined sugar.  Because of the estrogens in soy, being male and vegetarian, I tend to replace soy milk now with almond, oat, hemp, or other kinds of milk. 

Some people, who don't like the flavor of straight papaya add a little lemon juice to it, instead of the other things I use.

Step 1: The Bucket Head

I made this picker years ago, and am not going to deconstruct it to show the individual components, so you will have to use a little imagination. 

The full depth of the bucket was more than I needed to catch the fruit.  Instead of cutting the bottom off in a straight line, I cut it with the wavy line shown.  This let me mount the handle higher on the bucket, and also let me use the wavy line as a sort of hook to hang the picker from a horizontal overhead pipe in my shop for storage. 

I used a saber saw to make the wavy cut. 

Step 2: The Fishnet Liner

The fishnet liner is just a flat piece of fishnet that is allowed to sag a little inside the bucket before it is tied to the bucket with a string.  I tied it with string twice, using the natural channel on the bucket below where the lid to the bucket would normally lock on. 

Step 3: The Pole-Bucket Connection

I used thick walled 2 inch diameter PVC pipe for the pole and the section that connects the pole to the bucket.  The wall thickness of the pipe is about 1/4 inch.  I don't know the schedule number offhand because I always clean the writing off the pipe with lacquer thinner when I make things. 

The connecting section is a piece of the same diameter pipe with four "fingers" cut in it and bent to shape using heat.  I did the heat forming over a gas stove burner, heating all the fingers at the same time.  Other smaller heat sources, such as a hot air gun might work, but you might have to heat the fingers individually.  

When you heat form PVC, always keep the material in movement and far enough from the flame to avoid burning the plastic.  Take your time.  Don't try to rush the process by getting too close to the flame.  Fumes from burning PVC are toxic.  Make sure you have good ventilation.    See  https://www.instructables.com/id/PVC-Its-Great-for-Inventions  for more tips and inspiration. 

When the plastic is limp and leathery it is the right temperature to heat form.  I did this alone, but since you are heat forming the four fingers at once, a friend to help hold the fingers where they belong might help.  When the plastic cools it will keep its shape. 

The socket that holds the picker head to the handle was already part of the pipe I used to cut the connector section from.  If your pipe doesn't come with a socket, you can always heat form it yourself.  If you do that, it helps to trim with a knife a little from the inside of the leading edge of the pipe that will be heated and stretched, and to file some of the outside of the leading edge of the pipe that stays cold and goes inside.  That helps the outside pipe mate up and stretch over the inside pipe. 

The fingers of the connector section are pop riveted to the bucket. 



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    7 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I now have 3 papaya trees from the one that died last year - but I don't see how this new picker of yours, by twisting around the fruit, is going to get it off the tree, won't the bucket just spin around the papaya? I was lucky as this year I picked two within reach, made the most delicious shake from them with soy milk and sugar and ice, wish I had more but two trees only have a mess of flower and no papayas - do you know why?

    5 replies

    You would think that it would just spin around the fruit, but it doesn't. I think friction with the fishnet may have something to do with it. Also, levering upward with the pole sometimes snaps the stem, which is quite brittle, considering the weight it supports.

    As you twist the pole, the bucket tends to walk around the trunk, raising and snapping off the fruit as it does so.

    It sounds to me like your two trees with flowers and no papayas are males. The males have smaller flowers, clustered together. The females have larger, usually single flowers. You have to plant many and weed out the males when they flower.

    The males tend to make taller, more robust trees, and they do occasionally produce fruit; longer and skinnier. Some people keep a male or two around, but the females produce even without them. I always take out the males, because the space is valuable to me.

    I'm going to include the points you mentioned in the instructable. Thanks.


    Oh dear, I'm sad to learn that, I will keep them anyway as I loved the shade the old one that died provided. It looks as if I have 2 males, one of which produced 2 long skinny delicious fruits and one female with round fruit - not ready for picking yet. Now I understand how the picker works, thank you so much for sharing this project.


    My pleasure. Just keep planting more.

    For some reason, mine here tend to grow, bear a few fruit and then lose their leaves and die. Neighbors have much better luck with theirs lasting several years. The strange thing is that I love papayas, and they don't. Anyway, I just mount my picking pole to my vehicle and go pick theirs. I love the sharing that goes on out here.

    You mentioned using sugar in your smoothies. I don't, for health reasons. Some of my neighbors, who don't like ripe papayas do like "lechosa con dulce", candied green papaya. I'm not sure how they make it; probably boiling green papaya slices with sugar syrup until the water boils away. Anyway, you might like to try it.


    Here in FL papayas only live for about 3 years, but they do a great job of starting up new plants when they die. I tried a smoothie without sugar and then tried one with sugar, the sugar helped bring the fruit taste forward.


    I don't know about sucrose. I have done the same with fructose before and had the same experience. You can take a not quite peak papaya and turn it into a peak one. A sweet papaya naturally has more fructose in it, so that is not so surprising.

    Anyway, it's all a matter of taste. A little sugar probably won't kill you. A lot all the time might deplete your B vitamins, which neurons like, and cause brain farts or have some other side effect. A Google search for "is sugar poison" brings up lots of food for thought.

    Wow! You pick alot of fruit!

    I personally don't love papayas but i enjoy them sometimes. Good job!