In Season: Passion Fruit
Some cultures believe that after eating a passion fruit, you’ll fall in love with the next person your eyes fall upon. Even if you’re not into folklore, this lovable fruit is worth celebrating during this passionate month.
This tropical fruit grows on the passionflower plant and comes from the genus passiflora, which is actually the Hebrew word for the fruit. The two main commercial varieties available are Hawaiian yellow and New Zealand purple. They’re oval in shape and about three inches long. Both the yellow and purple have a sweet-and-tart flavor, but the purple fruit is juicier and less acidic. When ripe, the skin is a deep purple-brown and the pulp is bright yellow sprinkled with edible black seeds.
Passion fruit is thought to be native to Brazil, from the Amazon. It’s now grown in Australia, California, Florida, New Zealand and Hawaii, where it’s called lilikoi.
Depending on the location, passion fruit is available almost all year round. California-grown varieties are available from January through November, while in Hawaii it’s available just about all year round.
One passion fruit contains only 17 calories, and it’s a good source of vitamin A, an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber and contains the minerals calcium, iron and potassium. This tropical fruit is also rich in plant chemicals such as lycopene, polyphenols and carotenoids. Studies have shown that the phytochemicals in passion fruit may help fight cancer and the seeds of the fruit have been shown to help lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood).
One of the simplest (and most delicious) ways to eat passion fruit is to slice them in half, lengthwise and scoop out the sweet fruit with a teaspoon. The fruit can also be sliced and added to a mixed green salad, fruit salad or smoothie. The cooked-down pulp also makes delicious jam or jelly. In Australia, the pulp is topped with cream and sugar, while in Venezuela it’s used to make ice cream.
If you haven’t tasted a passion fruit beverage or cocktail, you’re missing out. Just be sure to remove the dark black seeds before juicing by straining with a sieve or some cheesecloth.
Shopping Tip: Choose fruit that are large, firm and heavy for their size. When ripe, the outside color will change from a green to a purple, yellow or red color. Unripe fruit can be left at room temperature to ripen and they’ll also begin to shrivel (but still tastes great). Once ripe, place in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »