Passiflora edulis is a vine species of passion flower that is native to southern Brazil through Paraguay to northern Argentina. Its common name in English is passion fruit. The passion fruit is a vigorous, climbing vine that clings by tendrils to almost any support. It can grow 15 to 20 ft. per year once established and must have strong support. It is generally short-lived (5 to 7 years).
There are a number of varieties of passionfruit, some are sweeter than others, some are the size of an egg and some are three times as large. It is cultivated commercially in tropical and subtropical areas for its sweet, seedy fruit. The fruit is both eaten and juiced; passion fruit juice is often added to other fruit juices to enhance aroma. The nearly round fruit has a tough, smooth, leathery, usually dark purple outer which houses pulpy juice and as many as 250 small, hard dark brown or black seeds. The unique flavour is sweet/tart to tart.
Australia is an area of high passion fruit consumption due to history and familiarity. Passion fruit flourished here before 1900 in what had been banana fields. It attained great importance until 1943 when the vines were devastated by a widespread virus. Although some plantations have been rebuilt, they cannot produce enough passion fruit to satisfy the demand and imports make up the balance. A passionfruit-flavoured soft drink called Passiona has been manufactured in Australia since the 1920s. Cottee’s was started by a dairy farmer called Spencer Cottee. Mr. Cottee grew passionfruit on his farm but was so good at it he often had a lot left over. Not wanting to waste any, he began creating the passionfruit drink we still know today, Passiona.
The pulp is added to fruit salads, and fresh fruit pulp or passion fruit sauce is commonly used in icings, as a topping for pavlova (a regional meringue cake) and ice cream, as well as flavouring for cheesecake. The juice is high in ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and carotenoids (vitamin A).
To my delight my neighbour at the back of my property in Adelaide, South Australia, has a very healthy passionfruit vine growing along the fence and of course much of it finds its way over the top and hangs down on my side. During Spring the flowers are born at each node on the new growth on the vine and become something of amazing intricacy in form. The bloom is clasped by three large green bracts and consists of five greenish-white sepals, five white petals and a fringe-like crown of straight, white-tipped fronds which are rich purple at the base. It also has five stamens. After about six months the purple fruit is ripe for picking.
Banana passionfruit is the fruit of several plants in the genus Passiflora, and is therefore related to the passion fruit. They look somewhat like a straight, small banana with rounded ends. It was given this name in New Zealand, where passionfruit are also prevalent.