Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Passion Fruit

One day I was walking the dog with the wife and happened upon a strange green fruit growing on a vine. "Hmmm... what's this? I wonder if I can eat it," I remarked but was summarily warned that I would not be transported to the hospital in the event of any poisoning. The orb was about the size of a racquetball ball and had the same flexible, hollow feel. This oddity puzzled me for weeks every time I saw it. What on Earth could it be?

Here's the kicker: I had seen flowers on that same vine before. I knew was these flowers were called yet, in an extreme and prolonged case of idiocy, my feeble mind refused to make the connection. What was this flower, you ask? The passion flower:

Passiflora incarnata

And the fruit, of course, was a passion fruit. Get your iodine lest you end up a cretin like me.

passion fruit hangs

Ever present as a flavoring in fruit drinks, candies, and confections, I was slightly puzzled to find that many people I asked had never eaten a passion fruit. Strange, since they are actually grown commercially (and wildly) in Florida, where I currently reside. When I lived in Australia, another big producer, they were in all grocers. But I can't remember having seen them in any local supermarkets for years and only just recently found a few on the Island of Misfit Produce at Whole Foods.

passion fruit skin

There are two main varieties of passion fruit. The purple passion fruit is the most commonly known and has the characteristic wrinkly purple skin. It only grows to about the size of a lemon whereas its cousin, the yellow passion fruit, can grow to the size of a grapefruit. Both varieties have a tough, outer rind that contains a clutch of seeds coated with a gelatinous, yellow/orange substance. The skin of mine was actually a mottled white/purple, something I had not seen before and I can only make the logical assumption that it is a cultivar of the purple variety. Regardless, just as our mothers told us, it's what's inside that matters.

passion fruit seeds and flesh

Juices containing passion fruit really do the fresh fruit no justice. The aroma is sublimely sweet and floral with hints of mango. One whiff and you'll be incapable of resisting the temptation of the sweet flesh. The flavor is far more incredible than I had remembered; delectably rich and sweet but with a refreshing quality that can't be found in equally rich foods. Like a pomegranate, you scoop the innards out and consume both flesh and seed. Unlike a pomegranate, the seeds contribute favorably to the flavor, adding a slight dash of bitterness and sourness to counteract the intense sweetness of the flesh.

passion fruit weeps

Unfortunately, there's a meager amount of edible matter and, at a dollar or more a pop, there are economic deterrents from just grabbing another for a repeat experience. Still, this salacious fruit is one you can quite happily take your time to savor.

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