Gleanings from Bali: Passion Fruit
What healthy vine will roar around the garden like a train, lustily embracing any support that leads it closer to the sun?
Ibu Kat describes the local passion fruit in Bali that way. I know and love passion fruit, liliko’i, from Hawaii. You may know the intensely flavorful and usually a bit sour fruit as passion fruit or passionfruit, maracuya, granadille, maracujá or lilikoʻi.
In “A Passion for Passionfruit,” Ibu Kat provides great facts about this seemingly indestructible plant:
“Passiflora is one hardy plant. Seedlings spring up from the compost bin, beside walls or wherever birds have dropped them. Once they are established, they’re pretty much indestructible. . .. Undeterred by monsoonal floods or torrid droughts, they just keep on climbing determinedly upwards. I encourage them to grow up tall trees and one has now colonized the roof. Literature states the vine can grow about 6 m [over 19 feet] a year but in my experience, it’s more like 10cm [almost 4 inches] a day.
After a while – about a year, after you’ve forgotten about them and the vines have largely disappear in the tree canopies – the oval fruits will start to appear in the grass.
When ripe, the passion fruit releases itself from the mother plant and drops to earth; it picks itself. Which is just as well considering the dizzying heights from which some of them are falling. The larger ones sometimes crack upon impact with the earth. A good wind or heavy rain can produce quite a harvest. Ignored, the shell eventually rots away and the seeds will germinate where they landed to start the whole process over again. But it’s much more fun to pick them up and take them home.
This particular variety has a very deep flavour and aroma, and a sweet/sour acidity that most Balinese don’t like. Wayan Manis wrinkles her nose and declares them ‘pahit’ [bitter]. But the juice makes a wonderful substitute for vinegar in salad dressings, introducing a distinctive fruity dimension to the proceedings. A shot of juice is lovely in a glass of cold soda or tonic or just by itself, iced, on a hot day. I’ve heard a rumour that a passion fruit daiquiri is very nice. Passion fruit makes a lovely tangy preserve which goes well with cheese.
Of course you can just cut the top off like a boiled egg and eat the contents with a spoon, or pour the lot over yogurt.
It’s astonishing, really, that we seem to be the only species that eats it. My garden is plagued by a family of squirrels. . . These rodents have destroyed every durian and coconut in my garden for years now, taking a single bite which spoils the fruit before moving on to the next. But they won’t touch passion fruit.
Neither will the bats. They help themselves to the papayas just at the moment of perfect ripeness, leaving the ragged remains of the fruit hanging sadly from the stem or slumped on the ground. . . . But they show no interest in the passion fruit even when I leave an open one around to tempt them. . . .
So I’m the only one who thinks that passion fruit is a good idea, and it’s my job to keep up with the crop. Since the vines can produce for up to five years it’s an ongoing exercise. I collect them, scoop out the pulp, press it through a potato ricer and freeze the juice. I give away scores of seedlings. My compost is full of passion fruit shells.
The purple variety of passion fruit is thought to have originated in Paraguay, and being so conveniently packed in its own tough skin was easy for early European explorers and traders to disseminate around the world. But the fruit is endemic in the tropics and subtropics of every continent except Africa. Most species are found in South America, eastern Asia, southern Asia and New Guinea. Nine separate species of Passiflora are native to the United States, at least four species are found in Australia and there is one endemic species in New Zealand.
Some interesting facts to keep up your sleeve for Quiz Night: many species of butterflies rely on passion fruit leaves. The seeds yield about 23% oil similar in properties to sunflower and soya oil. Different species are pollinated by hummingbirds, bumble bees. Carpenter bees, wasps or bats, while others are self-pollinating. The flower was named by Spanish missionaries to South America as an expository aid while trying to convert the indigenous inhabitants to Christianity. [Spiky structures sticking out from the center of the flower symbolize the crown of thorns; the ten petals represent the ten faithful apostles, the three stigmata symbolize the three nails, and the five anthers representing the five wounds. https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071203034037AARs16R].
So next time someone congratulates you on your passion fruit vine you can tell them all about it.
Passion fruit is packed with vitamins and minerals. One hundred grams of fruit contains about 30 mg of vitamin C, 1274 units of vitamin A, 348 mg of potassium along with significant amounts of iron copper, magnesium and phosphorus.
As with everything else, rarity adds value to a product. If you live in the continental USA, one Californian fruit supplier will be happy to send you eight fruit for US $28 or Rp. 45,588 each. That makes me feel pretty smug. And no way will I be coming down with scurvy any time soon” (Bali Advertiser, 28 September -12 October, 2016, p. 31).
Ibu Kat’s book of stories Bali Daze – Free-fall off the Tourist Trail is available at Ganesha Books in Bali and on Kindle. Watch for her new book, Retired and Rewired.
Here in Bali, the passion fruit we tried is more oval shaped and a bit sweeter than the kinds we have in Hawaii.
I hope you are able to enjoy tangy, healthy passion fruit wherever you are.
Images from <https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fimages-na.ssl-images-amazon.com%2Fimages%2FI%2F31uclgtT0NL.jpg&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FTropical-Importers-Fresh-Passion-Fruit%2Fdp%2FB00AFZ6B4E&docid=7vfzKsC7Yte-sM&tbnid=B4y6nU_U6wMYxM%3A&w=243&h=208&bih=629&biw=1269&ved=0ahUKEwiTwMrYzdnPAhUBOY8KHUOSB-8QxiAIAg&iact=c&ictx=1>.