Passiflora foetida. Edible Passion fruit in Ubud, Bali © 2009 Neil Gale Magic of Life Butterfly House
Which Passion fruit are edible?
A question often asked is if the common passion flower P. caerulea, has edible Passion fruit. They are edible when ripe (going from green to orange yellow) but are usually insipid though some are tastier than others. Note Always let any Passion fruit drop rather than trying to pull them off. Some Passion fruit are toxic, even some of the edible ones may be when unripe.
The most widely grown Passionfruit are the many hard shelled purple or yellow fruited P. edulis varieties. These all germinate very readily and keep relatively well. Perhaps 60 or more Passiflora have fruit we would judge as edible, a number of these may only be grown as food crops for local consumption as they have soft fruit which do not keep or travel well. e.g. P. tripartita var. mollissima and other Tacsonia which taste good but deteriorate quickly after harvest. I have tasted some which have made their way to UK and they are not great. Many also are quite full of crunchy seed which are not appealing.
Christopher Howell comments:-
‘The picture above is a mix of high altitude and lowland Passiflora species that I collected in western Venezuela in the early ’90s. Miguel Molinari & Tim Skimina from the Passiflora Society International accompanied me on the trip. The photo was originally loaned to John MacDougal at the Missouri Botanical Garden to use in the garden’s 2000 Passifloraceae poster.’
Commercial passion fruit juice production
The world market production is estimated by Passion fruit juice, a great site with plenty of information about edible passion fruit, at 640 000 metric tonnes per annum, the bulk of which is the yellow fruited P. edulis flavicarpa. Commercially available passion fruit juice is almost always P. edulis based. The purple and yellow (flavicarpa) varieties and crosses between the two are grown commercially everywhere from South America to Africa, Asia, Australia and U.S.A. The juices and indeed the fresh pulp from the fruit with or without the seeds are used worldwide in exotic tropical drinks, cocktails, cordials, liqueurs (e.g. blended with Cointreau and Cognac), chocolates, sauces, ice creams, sorbets and more. Type ‘Passion fruit recipe’ or ‘Passion fruit drink’ into Google to see what is out there. Even better buy Patrick Worley’s great Passionfruit cookbook.
Passion fruit taste characterists
Passion fruit and their juice bring their unique taste and smell, a combination of acidity and sweetness with an intense distinctive perfumed aromatic smell that almost defines the tropics. Many would say that as a group they are the best tasting fruit and juice in the world. It is a rare tropical juice mix without passion fruit juice in it, often as just a small percentage as its intensity is so great. In UK Rubicon Exotic Juice Drinks make an excellent range of exotic drinks including still and fizzy purple passion fruit juice in bottles, cartons and cans. The cartons are very widely available and are very good indeed. Unbeatable outdoors in summer.
The tastiest passion fruit?
The fruit are widely available worldwide, usually being P. edulis, purple fruit, P. edulis flavicarpa, yellow fruit or occasionally P. ligularis, orange fruit with a hard brittle shell. These all keep relatively well compared with other species. Opinions vary widely as to which are the tastiest fruit, partly this is of course subjective. If fruit are picked too early however, and are not given time to ripen fully in the sun, they can be lacking in juice and taste even if grown in ideal conditions. Many do not travel well so if they are not grown locally you will never know how good they are. Also if a plant is being grown outside its normal habitat with regard to either sunshine, day length, rainfall, temperature or soil, it may not taste as good as it should. The fruit of some edible species are shown above.
Passiflora ligularis fruit from Colombia
A tough but brittle shell with slightly unattractive grey pulp. Mark Cooper, from California, and others, report that it is one of the tastiest fruit. In UK however, where it is imported and sold in supermarkets as Granadilla or ‘Golden Passion Fruit’, it is variable & can sometimes be dull and insipid, but at its best is still very pleasant. It has a nice perfumed grape like aroma and seems far less acidic than P. edulis. Despite the hard shell it does not keep that well. It is also very expensive in UK.
Martin Murray reports that P. ligularis is farmed in Costa Rica at about 1400 metres upwards. Daytime temperature approx 30°C and nighttime 20°C. Soil wet, humidity high, and at some times of the year fed with citrus fertilizer (to increase fruit acidity and improve taste) and cattle manure. He describes the taste as very good and grape like.
P. tripartita var. mollissima
The fruit are often described as insipid but that is probably due to species confusion with P. tarminiana fruit which are not very great. Martin Murray reports that grown in Costa Rica it has a lovely sherbert taste. The plants are being grown there outside their usual conditions under shade cloth, probably not native to Costa Rica, and so are prone to disease and are scrapped each year and fresh plants grown from seed.
“Fruits and vegetables can be classified as climacteric or non-climacteric. Climacteric fruit continue to ripen after harvest, whereas non-climacteric do not. Ripening is a process that includes development of color, flavor and texture (softening).” Elizabeth Baldwin USDA © Cirad 2001. Passion fruit are climacteric, other examples are banana, mango, papaya, avocado, and guava. This means that the ripening process continues after abscission (when the fruit drops). Compare this with the non-climacteric strawberry, an unripe strawberry never ripens once picked too early.
I think we tend to assume that once the Passion fruit has dropped it is ripe. For some species e.g. Decaloba it may be, and for eating it may be, but if we want viable seed from it, to maximise chances of successful germination, it will do no harm to leave the fruit in a sunny window for 1-2 weeks after it has dropped. Wild collectors report that fruit picked from the vine may contain seed at different stages of ripening, including viable seed though its keeping properties are reduced. . An adaptation perhaps so that even if an animal eats the fruit early instead of waiting for it to drop some seed will still germinate. In Guam P. suberosa fruit is eaten by bats that land on the forest canopy to eat them.
I would recommend only eating ripe fruit from commercial sources like shops and markets. Generally the smell of cyanide and the taste will put anyone off eating the unripe fruit. In the interests of science I have carefully tasted small amounts of ripe fruit of many Passiflora species. Please do not try this yourselves. See the hybrid and species pictures section where the taste of most that have fruited will be recorded. Many like P. caerulea and any hybrids with caerulea as a parent are bland, some taste dreadful (P. kermesina) and some taste toxic (P. trisecta), perhaps safe for certain animals only. There is also a question over the safety of P. manicata fruit. It is known in Ecuador as ‘diablito’ because of its hallucinogenic properties. I know folk who have eaten ripe fruit without ill effect, so it may be that unripe fruit are an issue. Read more re toxicity.
Passion fruit has a variety of uses related to its appealing taste as a whole fruit and juice.
- In Australia and New Zealand, it is available commercially both fresh and tinned. It is added to fruit salads, and fresh fruit pulp or passion fruit sauce is commonly used in desserts, including as a topping for pavlova (a regional meringue cake) and ice cream, a flavouring for cheesecake, and in the icing of vanilla slices. A passionfruit-flavored soft drink called Passiona has also been manufactured in Australia since the 1920s. It can be used in some alcoholic cocktails.
- In Brazil, the term maracujá applies to passion fruit (maracujá azedo, or “sour”) and granadillo (maracujá doce, or “sweet”). Passion fruit mousse is a common dessert, and passion fruit pulp is routinely used to decorate the tops of cakes. Passion fruit juice, ice pops and more recently soft drinks are also popular. When making caipirinha, one may use passion fruit instead of lime.
- In Colombia, it is one of the most important fruits, especially for juices and desserts. It is widely available all over the country and three kinds of “maracuyá” fruit may be found.
- In the Dominican Republic, where it is locally called chinola, it is used to make juice and Fruit preserves. Passion fruit-flavored syrup is used on shaved ice, and the fruit is also eaten raw, sprinkled with sugar. In East Africa, passion fruit is used to make fruit juice and is commonly eaten as a whole fruit.]
- In Hawaii, where it is known as liliko’i, passion fruit can be cut in half and the seeds scooped out with a spoon. Lilikoi-flavoured syrup is a popular topping for shave ice. It is used as a dessert flavouring for malasadas, cheesecakes, cookies, ice cream and mochi. Passion fruit is also favoured as a jam or jelly, as well as a butter. Lilikoi syrup can also be used to glaze or to marinate meat and vegetables.
- In India, the government of Andhra Pradesh started growing passion fruit vines in the Chintapalli (Vizag) forests to make fruit available within the region. The fruit is eaten raw, sprinkled with sugar and is also used to make juice.
- In Indonesia, there are two types of passion fruit (local name: markisa), white flesh and yellow flesh. The white one is normally eaten straight as a fruit, while the yellow variety is commonly strained to obtain its juice, which is cooked with sugar to make thick syrup.
- In Mexico, passion fruit is used to make juice or is eaten raw with chilli powder and lime.
- In Paraguay, passion fruit is used principally for its juice, to prepare desserts such as passion fruit mousse, cheesecake, ice cream, and to flavour yogurts and cocktails.
- In Peru, passion fruit has long been a staple in homemade ice pops called “marciano”. Passion fruit is also used in several desserts, especially mousses and cheesecakes. Passion fruit juice is also drunk on its own and is used in ceviche variations and in cocktails, including the Maracuyá sour, a variation of the Pisco sour.
- In the Philippines, passion fruit is commonly sold in public markets and in public schools. Some vendors sell the fruit with a straw to enable sucking out the seeds and juices inside.
- In Portugal, especially the Azores and Madeira, passion fruit is used as a base for a variety of liqueurs and mousses.
- In Puerto Rico, where the fruit is known as “parcha“, it is used in juices, ice cream or pastries.
- In South Africa, passion fruit, known locally as Granadilla (the yellow variety as Guavadilla), is used to flavour yogurt. It is also used to flavour soft drinks such as Schweppes‘ “Sparkling Granadilla” and numerous cordial drinks (in cordial flavours it is referred to as passion fruit). It is often eaten raw or used as a topping for cakes and tarts. Granadilla juice is commonly available in restaurants. The yellow variety is used for juice processing, while the purple variety is sold in fresh-fruit markets.
- In Sri Lanka, passion fruit juice, along with faluda, is one of the most popular refreshments. Passion fruit cordial is manufactured both at home as well as industrially by mixing the pulp with sugar.