The passion fruit is a subtropical vine that grows up to 20 feet per year. Although it generally lives only 5-7 years, it becomes extremely tall, clinging to anything for support. The fruit itself is nearly round and about 1.5-3 inches wide. Its skin is smooth and waxy. Different varieties can be deep purple with white specks, to light yellow or pumpkin color. Some hybrids have been made between yellow and purple varieties yielding colors between the two.
Inside the fruit there are membranous sacs containing light orange pulpy juice. There are also hundreds of small, dark brown or black pitted seeds. The passion fruit flavor is musky, guava-like, and ranges from sweet to tart. Yellow passion fruits are usually larger than purple ones, but the pulp of the purple varieties is usually less acidic, richer in flavor, and has more juicy pulp.
The fruit on the vine will turn quickly from green to either deep purple or yellow when ripe. It will then fall to the ground. You can pick the fruits when they change color or gather them from the ground each day. When stored, passion fruits will last in the fridge about 1-2 weeks or on the counter for 1-2 days. It also freezes very well.
How to Eat Them
The first step is to pick a ripe fruit and avoid overly mature ones. Pick ones with wrinkles on the surface that are already deep purple (or yellow depending on the variety). These are the ripest and will be the sweetest. Don’t worry about minor cuts or scrapes on the skin. These are common and unless overwhelming, don’t usually hurt the quality of the fruit.
Another tip, the softer the shell, the more ripe the fruit will be.
You should also shake the passion fruit. If there’s a lot of liquid inside, it means there’s plenty to eat! It doesn’t hurt to smell it either. If you can’t smell anything, it’s probably fairly tasteless compared to others that smell tropical and sweet.
Now that you have your passion fruit, you’re ready to eat it. Cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seedy pulp. The seeds don’t need to be removed. You can eat the pulp with cream and sugar or use it in fruit salads or beverages (seeds too!). It’s also common to remove the seeds through a cheesecloth or strainer.
The juice you end up with can be sweetened or diluted with water or other juices. It tastes great with orange or pineapple. You can also boil the juice down to a syrup for use in sauce, gelatin desserts, candy, ice cream, sherbet, icing, cake filling, meringue or chiffon pie, or cocktails. The seeded pulp can be made into jelly or combined with pineapple to make jam. Frozen juice can be kept for 1 year in the freezer.
Passion fruit is a great source of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and fiber. Good fiber can help remove cholesterol and protect the colon. Vitamin C helps the body resist flu like infections and viruses. Also, vitamin A is good for eyesight and maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. It may even help protect us from lung and oral cancers. Potassium is an important component of cells and body fluids that helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure.
Yogurt Panna Cotta with Passion Fruit Syrup
- 300 mL Pouring Cream
- 270 mL Natural Yogurt
- 4 Tbsp Honey
- 2 3/4 Titanium Strength Gelatine Leaves (approx. 3 3/4 tsp of powdered gelatine) softened in cold water
- Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
- PASSION FRUIT SYRUP
- 4 Passion Fruit, pulp only (or canned)
- 50 gm Castor (berry) Sugar
- Juice from 1/2 lime
- 1/4 cup Water
- Special equipment: 150-200 ml Dariole or panna cotta moulds
- Very lighlty grease the dariole moulds with a little vegetable oil on a paper towel.
- Whisk the cream and yogurt together in a large bowl until smooth. Set aside.
- Bring honey and vanilla seeds to a simmer in a small saucepan. Squeeze excess water from gelatine and add it to the honey -- stir to dissolve.
- Stir honey mixture through the yogurt mixture, then divide among four lightly greased dariole moulds. Refrigerate until set (4-5 hours - or even overnight).
- Make the passion fruit syrup. Combine ingredients together in a small saucepan. Simmer over a medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the liquid becomes syrupy. Set aside to cool.
- Just before serving, dip bases of panna cotta moulds in warm water for a few seconds, turn out onto serving plates and spoon on the passion fruit syrup. Serve immediately.