Passiflora edulis: Passion fruit

Family: Passifloraceae
Common name: Passion fruit, Passion fruit vine, Passion flower, Edible passion flower, Purple granadilla

Interestingly, the name Passion fruit has nothing to do with passion, it comes from the Latin name Passiflora that denotes a family of tendril-forming evergreen climbers. Passion fruits are popular in most countries of the world and are used in sweet as well as savory dishes.

Passion fruit vines are vigorous climbers that can grow to a height of 10-12 meters by clinging on to trellises, supporting structures, or surrounding vegetation. The plant can grow 2-3 meters each year, with dark green glossy leaves, that are toothed, distinctly three-lobed when the plant is older, but simple in younger plants.

They can be grown easily in home gardens yielding over 20-30 fruits every year on a moderate-sized plant. There are primarily two varieties of Passion fruit, the yellow-colored Passiflora edulis f. flavicarpa, and the purple-colored Passiflora edulis f. edulis.

Passion fruit flowers are very beautiful, 5-7 cms in diameter, with 5 green sepals and 5 white petals. The corona crown is the most distinguishing feature; thin hairs like fringes that are white and wavy towards the tip, purple towards the base.

Above that stands the green stamens and a well-branched style. An architectural marvel of 3-4 layers, passion fruit flowers look prettier than those of many popular ornamental plants.

The brightly colored flowers attract small birds, bees, insects, and ants who help in pollination. After they are pollinated, the flowers produce rounded, oval berries that are initially pale green, later turning yellow or purple when they ripen.

The outer covering is thick and glossy, about 50-80 cms thick, protecting the inner pulp from drying out. Once the fruits ripen, the outer coat will wrinkle and shrink, which is an indication that the fruit is ready to eat.

Inside is the yellow pulp that is embedded with 100-150 black seeds covered by thin arils which are difficult to detach. This pulp along with the seeds can be eaten, the taste slightly more acidic than oranges.

The pulp can be strained and mixed with water or other juices to reduce the acidity. Passion fruit pulp is added to fruit salads and juices for a crunchy texture. It is used in making wines, juices, sherbets, jams, preserves, ice creams, cocktails, ice pops, syrups, liquors, pastries, cake, and pavlova toppings.

They are also used in making marinades for meats because of their sweet and tangy taste. Passion fruit cheesecakes and ice creams are popular all over the world, the yellow and black colors making these cheesecakes look exotic. The easiest way to eat it is to cut the fruit in half, scoop out the pulp and eat it raw. The rind is also edible, but it’s usually not eaten since it’s very bitter.

Passion fruit is rich in Vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants, promoting better immunity, and gut health. These fruits are said to help in controlling cancer, heart diseases, inflammations, asthma, lung infections, pain, and arthritis; though they must be taken with caution and under medical supervision. Passion fruits can cause allergies in some people on excessive consumption.

Propagation is from seeds and stem cuttings.