Who would have guessed that the land best known for computer chips, software, the Internet, Google and Yahoo, as well as lots of other high tech paraphernalia, Silicon Valley, would also be home to the passion fruit? Well live and learn! My work colleague and friend, Sandy Butler, brought me some of these round, purple, wrinkly and flavorful fruits the other day, grown in her own backyard in Sunnyvale, California. She said her family has been growing them for ages! I was stoked with the news because I only see them every now and then at Whole Foods usually at “whole paycheck” prices. I had mistakenly believed that these wonderful fruit, called maracujá in Portuguese, only grew in tropical/sub-tropical climates. At least I’ve seen them imported from such faraway lands as New Zealand and South Africa. Silly me!
The passion fruit was one of my fruit passions when I was a kid. It grew wild in the woods nearby my family’s home in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. They grow on vines that climb trees in the forest. They are famous for both their fruits and flowers. I’ve read somewhere that a Renaissance Pope was presented a glorious example of this bloom and immediately thought of the Christ and his Passion. In English, at least, the name “passion flower” stuck. Maracujá is a native Brazilian name for the same thing. As a kid, it was fun going into the woods to search for them. Can you imagine? These little fruits are so expensive here but there you just wander around gathering as much as you want for free.
I associate passion fruit with the scents I recall from that childhood forest: somewhat musky, lemony, mossy and wet, and I’m not even talking about opening a passion fruit yet. That brings another world of scents and flavors to your mouth: sweet, sour, guava-like if you know guava, maybe tropical?
The forest was an adventure for me and my friends. My parents did not like to let us go out there alone. There were too many snakes, spiders and other kinds of dangerous wild life, at least according to them. I think that they also feared that we’d drown in the big lagoon nearby. I’m not a strong swimmer. But I snuck out with friends from time to time none the worse for it. Ah, the good ol’ days!
The best way to eat passion fruit is to cut them open with a sharp knife and suck out the squishy interior of the fruit. Sort of like mangosteen, they have a thick rind that must be discarded. The interior is yellowish orange-ish with a lot of edible seeds and pulp.
Thanks Sandy for bringing me back sweet memories!