Grow Your Own Passion Fruit

My life is no Disney movie, but little woodland creatures taught me a lesson this weekend. Based on discarded rinds littering the garden, it’s time to eat.

Single ripe Maypop passionfruit on the vine

Thank you, furry friends; I’d been clueless about passion fruit.

Passionflower: More than Pretty

Three Passionflowers

About a year ago, I planted a passionflower vine in a sunny spot along my backyard’s chain link fence. I’m very partial to gorgeous, showy flowers and the purple and white passiflora incarnata “Maypop” did not disappoint. What had originally inspired this vine selection, however, wasn’t beauty; it was a cooking class (you can read about that experience and those recipes in “Adding Some Yard to My Meal”).

You see, I wanted to eat those beautiful blossoms.

Gulf Fritillary caterpillar eating a passionflower vine leaf
Caterpillars of the Gulf Fritillary butterfly love to eat passionflower leaves. I had hundreds this year! Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

What I didn’t understand was how much more of my plant would be edible.

“Duh,” you exclaim. “Passionflower vines produce passionflower fruit [aka passion fruit].” Well, excuse me–I’d never made that connection. While I’d eaten passion fruit in restaurant dishes (or drunk it in cocktails!), I’d never encountered a whole one at the grocery. Much less seen some growing in a garden.

Have you actually seen a passion fruit?

Geeky wordsmith note: Merriam-Webster defines passion fruit as “the small roundish purple or yellow fruit of a Brazilian passionflower (Passiflora edulis).”

One word=flower, two words=fruit.

What Does Passion Fruit Look Like?

Green passion fruit hanging on Maypop passionflower vine

The first season, my passionflower vine produced one green orb. Surprised and intrigued, I monitored its growth, wondering what mature passion fruit would look like. One day, it simply vanished. Squirrels, raccoons, and birds had most likely gotten to the fruit the second it was ripe, just like they do with our figs.

But that solo sphere had fleshed out a future possibility.

Passionflower blossoms on metal garden bench
My passionflower vine spread to new places in the garden, like this bench. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

This year, what had been a spindly vine grew into a burly beast. Though passionflower vine dies back to the roots in winter, spring saw amazingly speedy regrowth. When leggy offshoots infiltrated the yard, I wondered: had I made a dire error by failing to contain its roots? The original vine gobbled up the fence, scrabbled around a nearby shrub, and snagged onto raspy lemongrass leaves.

Ripe Passion FruitLater in the season, smooth hanging orbs began to dot the vine. Where showy blossoms had briefly blazed, fruit followed. Throughout the summer and most of the fall (September, all of October), tiny bright green passion fruits filled out, expanding from marbles to Ping-Pong balls. Recently, one particular fruit glowed a soft yellow and, when resting in my hand, felt slightly squishy.

Hmmm, I wondered; when is passion fruit ripe?

When I found that discarded golden rind on the ground, I had my answer.

When Do You Pick Passion Fruit?

Passionfruit in various stages of ripeness

According to Foraging Texas.com, Maypop passion fruit turns gold when ripe. (Other passionflower varieties become a deep–almost black–purple.) Inside the thick rind is a cluster of soft arils. “Arils” are the gelatinous stuff surrounding seeds. Ripe seeds nestled in the goop should be dark.

Another signal that passion fruit is ripe? Wrinkled skin. Mine hadn’t gotten that far, but the soft “give” I felt signaled some wrinkling wasn’t too far in the future.

When fully ready to eat, passion fruit simply falls off the vine. Now, I doubt I’ll be able to beat the critters in my yard to those fallen morsels. So could I pick it and let it ripen inside? Sadly, no. According to “Picking Passion Fruit: Learn How and When to Harvest” by Bonnie L. Grant, picked green fruit won’t ripen, but harvested ripe fruit will continue to sweeten.

How Should I Eat Passion Fruit?

One ripe passionfruit and one green passionfruit, sliced in half
Note the contrasting seed color between riper (left) and greener (right) passion fruits. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

Anytime I can eat something straight out of the yard, I’m ecstatic. Now, I have yet to sample my own passion fruit (shaking my fist at those woodland creatures who’ve beaten me to it thus far), so I can’t comment with any certainty on the taste. I did experiment with slicing two in half to view their insides: one more yellow (note the seeds are black), the other green (clearly nowhere near ripe).

I found a wonderful resource for preparing my future passion fruit bounty (“How to Eat Passion Fruit: 5 Easy Steps” by Annette McDermott). I’ll sample those golden globes raw, digging pulp and seeds straight out of the halved rind with a spoon. Other appealing methods: extracting passion fruit juice (simply straining the pulp) and simmering the whole fruit until soft before blending, straining, and sweetening to make nectar (think cocktails and dessert sauces). Yum!

Cookbook from Hudson's on the Bend Cooking School with tag from Passionflower vine plant and handwritten notes.

More Things to Eat From My Yard

“Healthy Eating From My Own Backyard: The Kitchen Garden” (fennel)

“Falling in Love with Lemongrass”

“Sweet Potato Vines Do Double Duty as Decoration and Dinner”

“Plants, Family Traditions, and Rosemary Refrigerator Cookies”

 

 

 

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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I’m a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I’ve come to learn it. In addition to my blog “Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life” at www.leahruns100.com, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

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