July 6, 2014

Passionfruit (Maracuyá)

Passiflora edulis – Passionfruit vine

That is my passionfruit vine. Here's another photo of it growing around a banana plant.
Click any of the photos to view larger
Here the vine is continuing its journey over some other plants.
And here climbing over my macadamia nut tree.
Here is another vine climbing up to the top of my crepe myrtle tree.
And here it is reaching for the roof on top of my variegated hibiscus. When it takes hold, it does not want to let go!

I should have paid more attention to my CURLA tropical fruit book. I read about passiflora edulis when I first planted the seeds but then my part in the project (severe pruning) was quickly forgotten and I left the vine to do its own thing. According to CURLA, in this area the vines can reach a kudzu-like 80 meters (~260 feet) in length if left untrimmed.

Did you see the fruits? No? Me neither. Not a one! I've only seen about five flowers, one at a time, which promptly fell off instead of producing fruit. I think we planted them about a year and a half ago so maybe it is too soon. The vines were almost completely defoliated by butterfly larvae last year so that setback might have something to do with the lack of fruit, too. Since I don't have a flower to show you, this is a photo from Wikipedia.

I bought some passionfruit recently from Axel, a little boy who comes around every now and then selling lemons, mangos or other fruit. When he found out I like maracuyá, he came back again a couple of days later with a bigger bag for me. Enterprising little boy! I told him that I have plants but not any fruit and got him to inspect my plantings. He was impressed with the size and said that if his plant was that big, it would have 100 fruit on it. Thanks a lot! Rub it in. He and his brother Juan also pointed out that someone was macheteing my plants and probably cutting off all the potential flowers and fruit. Hmmmm.

If you aren't familiar with passionfruit (maracuyá in Spanish), there isn't much fruit inside – it's mostly brown/black seeds covered with a sort of gelatinous yellowish covering, a little juice, and a couple of small blobs of soft orange pulp. It's like the inside of a juicy, seedy tomato, except that the juice is yellow and the tiny seeds are crunchy. The flavor reminds me of grapefruit with a bit of a tropical twist and the crunch of the seeds is really nice.

Yellow Passionfruit
The first time I ever opened a passionfruit, I had no idea what I was supposed to do with the seeds. How could you separate the seeds from the fruit? The recipes that I found called for passionfruit pulp. What pulp? Well, it's simple: you use the bit of pulp, the juice, and the seeds, too. In this photo, I'm cutting into Axel's fruits and scooping out the insides. The rinds are thrown away. The edible part inside easily scoops out with a spoon.

The most common way maracuyá are used in Honduras (that I'm aware of) is to make juice or licuados (smoothies). You can blend the fruit, seeds and all, with sugar and water (about 3-4 parts water to one part fruit, sugar to taste) and strain it, or just mix it all together and serve the juice with seeds. I prefer it with seeds. Passionfruit goes really well with yogurt, but my absolute favorite is passionfruit ice cream, with seeds, of course. Those crunchy seeds give you a burst of flavor when you bite into them.

Passionfruit is also used in jams, cocktails, as toppings for cheesecake and flan, and in other desserts. A nice thing about passionfruit is that if you get a super harvest, you can freeze the excess pulp and seeds with no loss of flavor or texture and it doesn't take up much space at all.

Passionfruit is sometimes available in the grocery stores here in La Ceiba and probably more often in the market. The smaller purple variety is more orange inside and less acidic but the plant is more susceptible to problems. Maracuyá keeps for a relatively long time and is still good even after it gets all wrinkly.

The attractive vines are easy to grow from seeds. Axel suggested I plant some seeds from his fruit to see if they do any better. I'm going to do that and if I get a bumper crop, I'll share the fruit with him.


Below are some links if you'd like to know more about passionfruit:

Tropical Permaculture: Growing Passionfruit Vines

Wikipedia: Passiflora edulis

How to (Select and) Eat Passionfruit

One of my favorite sources of tropic fruit information is Fruits of Warm Climates by Julia F. Morton. The book is available online at Purdue University. I enjoy reading about the history of the fruits and the various uses in different countries. Here is the page on passionfruit.

Frutales y Condimentarias del Trópico Húmedo (Fruits and Spices of the Humid Tropics) covers well over 100 tropical fruits with photos of the fruit, flower, leaf, and the plant at various stages of growth. The book includes some information from Julia F. Morton's book, as well as specific local information (best varieties, growing and harvesting conditions, as well as common pests) based on trials done by CURLA and the Lancetilla botanical garden and consultations with local experts. The book is available for about $20 at CURLA University here in La Ceiba. It's in Spanish, of course.

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