Passion fruit is not the most visually appealing food in the world. It’s rather a small, ugly sphere, covered with a tough, dark, wrinkled hide. But don’t judge this book by its cover!
Once you prick the skin and slice into the passion fruit, you’ll discover its golden flesh and edible black or pinkish seeds, along with its tempting, fragrant aroma. The taste is somewhat like a combination of orange, pineapple, and guava.
Purple passion fruits, the most well known variety, are native to South America, especially Brazil, Paraguay, and the northern sections of Argentina. The Aztecs grew the vines for many years, and the fruits were an impotant part of their diet. The fruit got its name from Spanish missionaries who thought the blooms resembled the crown of thorns placed on Christ’s head during His crucifixion.
About fifty other varieties of passion fruit are native to Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and to islands in the Pacific. Commercial production of the fruit in New Zealand began in 1927, but by the next decade, production encountered major problems with diseases attacking the vines.
Passion fruit has been popular world wide for years, and the juice is often found in commercial fruit punches. Recently, however, scientists are taking a second look at these unnatractive globes, largely because of their high antioxidant content and phyto-chemicals and their role in potential healing.
The results of an exciting new study, reported in April of 2008, found that passion fruit peel helps relieve asthma. Over 80% of the subjects receiving the extract found relief from wheezing, and coughing decreased by 76%. Researchers point to the fruit’s antioxidants and to its flavonoids, which inhibit the production of histamine and reduce inflammation and allergy.
The University of Florida has been busy investigating the passion fruit, too. Researchers there have found that the juice of the fruit inhibits cancer cell growth in two forms of cancer. They believe the phyto-chemicals in the fruit are responsible for the decrease in cancer cell growth and the increase in cancer cell death.
In addition to its curative powers, passion fruit is high in vitamin C, vitamin A, and delivers several important trace minerals. Also, if you eat the seeds along with the flesh, just one cup of the fruit packs almost 25 grams of fiber!
With the fruits being cultivated across the globe today, passsion fruit is generally available fresh all year at most grocery stores. And that’s one of the best ways to eat it – fresh. The neat thing about the passion fruit is that it has its own little serving bowl! Just slice the fruit in half, and eat the delicious pulp with a spoon.
When shopping for fresh passion fruit, use your nose! A ripe fruit will have a wonderful aroma, almost a perfume-like smell. Also, the skin should be sufficiently dark and wrinkled. If the skin is smooth, the fruit is not yet ripe.
In addition to eating the fruits fresh, there are several other ways to incorporate the healthy goodness of passion fruit into your diet. Try mixing it with plain yogurt or with hot cereal, or add it to a smoothie. The pulp can be strained for a refreshing juice, too.
For a tropical fruit sorbet, push the pulp through a sieve to remove the seeds. Add the juice and pulp to a sugar or sugar-free syrup and freeze for four hours. Yum!