Bay Area passion fruit AKA maracujá

by Heguiberto on October 16, 2009

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passion fruit

passion fruit AKA maracujá

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!

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ritatower October 16, 2009 at 6:51 am

Yummy! I can imagine the flavor by the way you described it! You are so lucky you have a friend who grows them.

Sandy Butler October 16, 2009 at 6:53 am

Glad you enjoyed them! I loved your write up.

tasteofbeirut March 3, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Enjoyed reading your post so much! I have a passion for passion fruit and my first encounter with the taste of the fruit was in Paris, France when we were there in the late seventies escaping the war that was raging in Lebanon; I tasted a “sorbet au fruit de la passion” one day and I was struck by lightening or that’s what it felt like! It brightened my days and I kept buying the sorbet any chance I got! And to think that someone in California actually grows it in her yard! Unbelievable. I am gonna try to grow it in Lebanon in our mountain orchard.

Heguiberto March 8, 2010 at 10:07 am

Joumana, War is a just a horrible thing. It kills innocent civilians, displaces people wrecks havoc on so many lives. I am sorry that you had to leave your country and happy that you are alive had a chance to re build your life abroad and have a marvelous blog on Lebanese food, folks if you have yet to visit, please do so ASAP - – 🙂
Passion fruit has a powerful flavor that permeates everything. In Brazil there 2 kinds the tiny purple ones with a delicate flavor eaten as a snack and also a bigger type, it is a yellow shinny skin one single fruit can weigh sometimes over a pound! It is super tart therefore mostly used in cooking for making juices, cakes, compotes. I can eat both fresh, since I can tolerate sour flavors fairly well. Writing these note is already making my mouth salivate!
San Francisco has a bakery in the Mission district, Tartine, that I adore. They make a coconut-passion fruit cake that is out of this world! The bakers and pastry chefs there are extremely talented. Well worth a try when you are in the bay area.

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