PASSION FRUIT - BELIZE'S LITTLE TROPICAL GEM
Often, I'll have customers walk up to my produce stand and ask me, "What's this?"
"Passion Fruit!" I tell them.
I enjoy cutting open and allowing my foreign customers to see and taste the various fruits and vegetables of Belize. For many of them, trying something new is a wonderful way for them to experience Belize. I enjoy getting to share their experience for the very first time. For most of my foreign customers, Passion Fruit is something new.
Passion Fruit is like a little tropical gem, which grows on a vine here in Belize. It produces a round oval fruit that is either yellow or purple in color. This vigorous climbing vine, will cling to almost any support. It can grow 15 to 20 feet per year, but once the vine takes hold – it needs good support to continue growing. This vine is relatively short lived (in that), it usually lasts about 5 to 7 years. The passion fruit is native to Central America, northern Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.
The vine will produce a single fragrant flower, 2 to 3 inches wide. The bloom consists of 5 greenish-white sepals, 5 white petals, with a rich purple color at the base. Carpenter bees are the most efficient pollinators of this flower. There are two types of passion fruits. The bright yellow variety is also known as the Golden Passion Fruit. It grows similar in size to that of a grapefruit. The dark purple variety is smaller in size, similar to a lemon. It is less acidic than the yellow, and has a richer aroma and flavor. The vine, especially the yellow form, is fast growing and will begin bearing in 1 to 3 years. Ripening occurs 70 to 80 days after pollination.
The fruit is usually 1-1/2 to 3 inches wide, has a tough rind that is smooth and waxy and ranges from either yellow or dark purple at maturity, with a soft to firm, juicy interior filled with numerous seeds. One passion fruit can have as many as 250 small, hard, dark brown or black, pitted seeds inside it. The fruit can be grown to be eaten or for its juice, which is often added to other fruit juices to enhance the aroma. The fruit shown are mature for juicing and culinary use. For eating right out of the fruit, the fruit should be allowed to wrinkle for a few days to raise the sugar levels and enhance the flavor.
The purple passion fruit is subtropical and prefers a frost-free climate. The plant does not grow well in intense summer heat, so you will often find this vine growing in partially shaded areas. The yellow passion fruit is tropical or near-tropical and is much more intolerant of frost. Both forms need protection from the wind. Generally, annual rainfall should be at least 35 inches.