While the origin of the Passion Fruit plant is unknown, it is generally believed to be native to Brazil where 16th Century Spanish Catholics named it “Flor de las cinco llagas” or “flower of the five wounds” after its distinctive purple flower. Today, about 400 years later, passion fruit is grown nearly everywhere in the tropical belt but known by a variety of different names. Its common name is Maracuya in Ecuador and Brazil, Parcha in Venezuela, Lilikoi in Hawaii, and Chinola or Parchita in Puerto Rico.
Botanically this exotic fruit belongs to the family of Passifloraceae, of the genus Passiflora. Scientific name: Passiflora edulis. The plant is an avid climber (vine) which grows on anything it can grab through tendrils.
Passion Fruit was introduced into Hawaii in 1880 and it quickly became popular in home gardens. It naturalized in Hawaii’s almost perfect climate and, by 1930, could be found wild on all the islands of the Hawaiian chain. In 1951, the University of Hawaii chose passion fruit as the most promising crop for agricultural development and undertook a program to create an industry for production of quick-frozen passion fruit juice concentrate. By 1958 the plantings had expanded to cover 490 hectares and the industry was rather well established.
Long-term success was not to be however. Viruses damaging the vines, high labor costs, and the rapidly increasing value of land combined to wipe out this young industry. Today, there are no more commercial passion fruit plantations left in Hawaii but the fruit’s unique flavor remains deeply rooted in the taste preferences of the Hawaiian people. Large quantities of passion fruit juice and concentrate are shipped to Hawaii every year. It is thought, as a matter of fact, that Hawaii may well have the highest per capita consumption of passion fruit juice in the world.
Australia is another area of high passion fruit consumption, again, due to history and familiarity. Passion fruit flourished there before 1900 in what had been banana fields. It attained great importance until 1943 when the vines were devastated by a widespread virus. Although some plantations have been rebuilt, they can not produce enough passion fruit to satisfy the demand and imports make up the balance.
It is in South America that most of the world’s passion fruit is currently grown. Starting in the mid 1950’s, passion fruit cultivation became widespread in Colombia and Venezuela. Later it spread to Ecuador. Today, South America, and particularly Ecuador, is the main exporter of passion fruit concentrate to the Western World.
When compared to huge crops like banana (estimated 45 million MT per year), the production of passion fruit is miniscule…only an estimated 640,000 MT. The market for fresh fruit is almost nonexistent in the U.S. although this may change as consumers reach out for new, different, and more exotic fruit and produce. In Brazil however, fresh passion fruit is immensely popular. The demand is so strong that although they grow much of their own fruit, they have had to import additional supplies, primarily from Ecuador, in recent years. In Brazil, the fruit is used in fresh beverages made both at home and in “stalls” or juice stands popular throughout the country.
The passiflora plant requires well-drained fertile soil and good moisture to flourish. It grows quickly and reaches about 15-20 feet per annum once established. Its average life span is about 5-7 years.
Over five hundred cultivate types exist; however, two main type purple and yellow passion fruits are widely cultivated. During each season, the vine bears greenish-white fragrant flowers. The fruit features round to oval shape, 4 to 8 centimeters in diameter, have a tough shell mangosteen-like rind. Average weight is about 35-50 g.
Inside, the fruit consists of membranous sacs containing light orange-colored, pulpy juice with numerous small, hard, dark-brown or black, pitted seeds. Yellow passions are generally larger than the purple varieties, but the pulp of the purple fruit is less acid, richer in aroma and flavor, and has a higher proportion of juicy pulp.
Because of its unique, intense, aromatic flavor characteristics, passion fruit is a “natural” ingredient for juice blends. It has also been described as a natural concentrate and it blends so well with other juice flavors. In Germany, one of the largest juice consuming countries in the world, passion fruit concentrate and banana puree constitute the base of almost every “multivitamin” juice produced. These “multivitamin” juices are second only to apple juice in popularity among Germans.
Delicious, passion fruit is rich source of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and fiber. 100 g fruit contains about 97 calories.
The fruit is a very good source of dietary fiber. 100 g fruit pulp contains 10.4 g or 27% of fiber. Good fiber in the diet helps remove cholesterol from the body. In addition dietary insoluble fiber by acting as a bulk laxative helps protect the colon mucous membrane by decreasing exposure time to toxic substances in the colon as well as binding to cancer-causing chemicals in the colon.
Passion fruit is good in vitamin C, providing about 30 mg per 100 g. Vitamin-C (ascorbic acid) is a powerful water soluble anti-oxidant. Consumption of fruits rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against flu-like infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals.
The fruit contains very good levels of vitamin-A (provides about 1274 IU per 100 g), and flavonoid antioxidants such as β-carotene and cryptoxanthin-β. Current research studies suggest that these compounds have antioxidant properties, and along with vitamin A are essential for good eye-sight.
Vitamin A is also required maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin-A, and flavonoids helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
Fresh granadilla is very rich in potassium. 100 g fruit pulp has about 348 mg of potassium. Potassium is an important component of cells and body fluids, and helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Granadilla is also a very good source of minerals. Iron, copper, magnesium and phosphorus are present in adequate amounts in the fruit.
NUTRIENTS IN ONE FRUIT
Protein: 2.2 g
Fat: 28 mg
Calcium: 28 mg
Phosphorus: 160 mg
Vitamin A: 3002 IU
Riboflavin: .307 mg
Niacin: 3.54 mg
Ascorbic acid: 30 mg