Product of the month: the passion fruit

Passion fruit – an exotic delight with a heart of gold

Passion fruit – you may think this fruit was named for the enthusiasm it engenders in its fans, but the name was actually inspired by religious rather than physical passion. When Christian missionaries first landed in South America they came across the vine and decided to call it the “flower of the five wounds”, because the five petals were seen as emblems of the passion and crucifixion of Christ. The original inhabitants of these tropical rainforests may well have begged to differ. Their name for the delicious dark purple berry was maracujá, which came from the language of the Tupí, and meant “the food in the bowl”. They revered the fruit which formed an essential part of their diet as it boosted their immunity to disease and had a host of health-giving properties.

While the name may sound attractive, the fruit’s appearance is slightly less so: with its dark brown, wrinkled skin it huddles, overlooked, between its more attractive cousins on market stalls. Did it leave its looks far away in its South-American  home, where it grows as a lushly luminous berry on the Passiflora edulis vine? Is it perhaps a little like a swan: majestically elegant in the water, but comically ungainly on land?

Once the passion fruit has been picked, it rapidly loses its looks, leaving behind an unpromising-looking wrinkled sphere. But beware of judging a book solely by its cover: the wrinkled skin of the passion fruit is not a blemish but a sure sign that it is ripe for eating, and is bursting with flavour. Once the skin is cut, it releases an incredibly aromatic and very tempting scent and reveals crisp little seeds surrounded by brilliant yellow pulp. This golden heart is a veritable vitamin bomb: rich in vitamins A, B and C, and packed with potassium, phosphorus, iron, calcium and magnesium, the passion fruit has a practically unrivalled combination of nutrients. Now is the time to admit that looks are not all that important: it’s the inner values that count!