Passion fruit: what are the benefits of this exotic fruit?

Passion fruit, also called grenadilla, is a small tropical berry as big as an egg. Its fragrant flesh contains many small black seeds that are a very good source of dietary fiber. In the kitchen, it allows you to create plates that are healthy, colorful, exotic, and gourmet.

Features of passion fruit

  • Excellent source of dietary fiber;
  • Antioxidant power;
  • Low in calories;
  • Good source of vitamin C and iron;
  • Unique tangy flavor.

Nutritional and caloric values of passion fruit

Passion fruit has a unique nutrition profile. With 101 kcal per 100g, it is one of the relatively caloric fruits. However, this calorie content should be put into perspective given the small amounts consumed most of the time. Passion fruit contains just over 10% carbohydrates and almost 7% dietary fiber, which is excellent.

From a micronutrient point of view, it is an excellent source of iron and the antioxidant vitamin C. Note that this combination is very interesting since the presence of vitamin C in passion fruit naturally increases the intestinal absorption of iron also present in the fruit.

For 100 g of raw passion fruit:

NutrientsAverage content
Calories101
Protein2.13 g
Carbohydrates10.9 g
Lipids3 g
Dietary fiber6.8 g
Glycemic loadData not available
Antioxidant powerYes, but the exact data is not available

The benefits of passion fruit

Several epidemiological studies have shown that the high consumption of vegetables and fruits decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and various chronic diseases. The presence of antioxidants in vegetables and fruits may play a role in this protection.

Little clinical research has investigated the effects of specific consumption of passion fruit. However, the use of certain supplements extracted from the peel or juice of the fruit has yielded interesting results. Here are the most promising applications.

Asthma

One small study (43 people) showed that regular consumption of a supplement consisting of passion fruit peel extracts decreased asthma symptoms (decreased prevalence of sputum, cough, and shortness of breath). Studies will need to be done on a larger number of subjects to confirm the effectiveness of this treatment.

High blood pressure

Research has found that a supplement from passion fruit peel extract helps improve systolic and diastolic blood pressure, without any adverse effects. The supplement administered consisted of a mixture of flavonoids, phenolic acids, and anthocyanins, active compounds in passion fruit.

Joint Health

Another type of supplement, extracted from the peel of passion fruit, is said to improve physical function and decrease pain and stiffness in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.

The reported beneficial effects are thought to be due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of passion fruit peel. However, more studies regarding the efficacy and safety of such a supplement will be needed before recommendations can be made.

Cancer

Researchers observed in vitro that a mixture of antioxidants from passion fruit juice could decrease the growth of cancer cells and increase the activity of an enzyme that promotes the destruction of these cells.

Antioxidant power

Passion fruit contains several types of antioxidants, compounds that neutralize free radicals in the body and thus prevent the onset of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, and various chronic diseases.

The main antioxidants in passion fruit are anthocyanins, especially cyanidin. These compounds, which are pigments, give a pronounced color to food. They would have beneficial properties in terms of cancer prevention (for example, reducing tumor formation and decreasing cancer cell growth). However, these properties have not been studied directly in humans.

The skin of the passion fruit and the layer of flesh just below it would contain a high amount of lycopene, an antioxidant of the carotenoid family. Just scrape the flesh well with a spoon going all the way to the skin to get a good amount of lycopene. Unlike other carotenoids, lycopene does not have the ability to convert into vitamin A in the body.
However, its antioxidant action would have beneficial effects on health, especially on the incidence of cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer. Lycopene is best absorbed in the body when the food is consumed with a source of fat, such as nuts or cheese. To date, lycopene specifically from passion fruit has been relatively little studied. Tomato and tomato products are the main sources of lycopene in the diet.

High in dietary fiber

The peel of passion fruit and its seeds contain insoluble fiber. These would help among other things to prevent constipation by increasing the volume of stool. In general, a diet rich in fiber would be associated with a lower risk of colon cancer and would help to satisfy the appetite by providing a feeling of satiety more quickly.

Research has shown that adding passion fruit seeds to a cholesterol-rich diet improves several blood parameters (blood cholesterol, triglycerides) and certain intestinal functions in animals. However, more studies are needed to find out if passion fruit seeds have the same effects on humans.

A word from the nutritionist

When it’s high season, don’t hesitate to take the opportunity to incorporate passion fruit into your daily diet. For this, nothing could be simpler, just add it to juices, smoothies, and other fruit-based desserts. Passion fruit juice with no added sugar is another great way to enjoy it the rest of the year.

How to choose passion fruit?

Passion fruit, or grenadilla, is an exotic fruit native to South America: Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina precisely. This unique fruit belongs to the Passifloraceae family and is available in France on the stalls between the months of October and April, the ideal time to fully enjoy it.

Passion fruit identity card

  • Family: Passifloraceae;
  • Origin: South America;
  • Season: October to April;
  • Color: dark purple;
  • Flavor: tart.
  • Choosing the right passion fruit

The fruit should be fragrant and heavy in hand. His skin should be wrinkled and give way slightly under pressure. Fruits with hard, smooth, and shiny skin, which give the impression of great freshness, are actually immature, not very tasty, and rather acidic. Depending on the variety, the fruit will be purple or yellow.

Beware of industrial juices

The juice is usually mixed with that of other fruits. Read the label carefully to make sure it is a 100% natural juice and not a drink that includes sugar and various artificial ingredients.

For optimal conservation

  • Refrigerator: if the skin of the fruit is not very wrinkled, let it ripen at room temperature, then put it in the refrigerator where it will keep for 1 week;
  • Freezer: Place the flesh in a freezer bag or freeze the whole fruit. You can also make a coulis or juice and pour it into an ice cube tray.

How to prepare passion fruit

In cooking, passion fruit is highly appreciated both for its bright color and for its tangy and unique taste. It allows the realization of recipes as healthy as gourmet and brings a touch of originality that undeniably makes a difference.

A delicious little fruit in nature

  • The easiest way to taste passion fruit is to cut it in half and eat it plain, with a spoon.
  • If you do not want to consume the seeds, simply pass the flesh through a sieve.

Cooking passion fruit flesh

  • In cream: with passion fruit coulis, eggs and milk, make a cream that makes an excellent dessert.
  • Puree the flesh into a jelly, sorbet, granita, foam, or grout. The latter will flavor pancakes, cakes, and other pastries or a salad of exotic fruits, for example, pineapple, papaya, and mango;
  • Sprinkle a fish or salad with the small seeds of the passion fruit, as is done with those of the pomegranate;
  • Dessert Side Sauce: Add the flesh to a mixture of dried orange juice and apricots, with the addition of a little honey. Cook for about ten minutes. Switch to the blender by adding water and cool;
  • In Australia, pavlova is made, a dessert made from baked meringue. It is cooled and topped with whipped cream (which can be replaced by yogurt or tofu beaten with honey) and fresh fruit, including passion fruit.
  • Cook the immature fruit and serve it as a vegetable.

What to do with passion fruit juice?

  • By pressing the flesh into a cheesecloth (cheesecloth), a thick juice, rich in starch, is obtained. It can be diluted with water or juice from other fruits. Or add it to yogurt or milk and thicken the formula with agar-agar, as is done in South Africa;
  • Marinate game or other meat in juice or coat the meat with passion fruit jelly 15 minutes before the end of cooking.
  • Hot sauce: Reduce the juice by half before blending with garlic, fresh ginger, red pepper, hot peppers, chives (or the green of 1 or 2 chives), cumin, and a little apple cider vinegar.

Contraindications and allergies to passion fruit

There are few contraindications to the consumption of passion fruit. However, it belongs to the latex fruit family, which causes oral allergy in sensitive subjects. It is therefore necessary to remain cautious in this case and consult an allergist doctor in the slightest doubt.

Latex allergy

Latex allergy can be associated with allergies to certain foods, such as passion fruit. The reactions are diverse, ranging from urticaria to anaphylactic reactions. Given the potential severity of the reactions, very special care should be taken when consuming these foods in people allergic to latex or pollen.

It is recommended that they consult an allergist to determine the cause of reactions to certain foods and the precautions to be taken. Other foods potentially associated with latex allergy include avocado, banana, chestnut, kiwi, apricot, and papaya.

History and anecdotes

The term “passiflora”, which refers to the plant, appeared for the first time in French in 1808, in the Journal de Botanique. It comes from the modern Latin passiflora, passion (passion), and flos (flower). The term “passion fruit” is used instead. The term “grenadille”, which appeared in the language in 1598, refers to its resemblance to the pomegranate.

However, the two fruits are not of the same botanical genus or family and did not appear on the same continent. Pomegranate probably comes from the Middle East, while passion fruit is native to South America. The term “maracuja”, which was adopted into French around 1975, is an Indian word from Brazil that also refers to the fruit.

A bit of history

The genus Passiflora is native to South America, specifically the Amazon basin, where many species still grow in the wild. It is a climbing plant, similar to the vine. At the end of the sixteenth century, the Spanish discovered the culinary and medicinal uses made by the Indians of Mexico and South America.

They brought seeds of the plant back to Europe, where it was widely cultivated and became popular as a medicinal plant. North America will also discover its calming properties.

Until the mid-twentieth century, it played a significant role in medicine, before being replaced by synthetic drugs. Of the more than 475 species of passionflower recorded, only a few are cultivated on a large scale for their fruit. Several others still provide excellent fruit that is consumed locally. The most widely cultivated species is P. edulis, which is produced in all tropical countries of the world. It exists in 2 varieties, P. edulis var. edulis and P. edulis var. flavicarpa.

The first grows in the warm lowlands and gives small purple fruits. The second prefers cooler climates at higher altitudes and produces larger yellow fruits. This botanical genus arouses a lot of interest among amateur gardeners. Most of its flowers are spectacular and the climbing habit of the plant covers the garden arbors with its abundant foliage.

The main passion fruit-producing countries are Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Indonesia. The majority of fresh fruit is eaten on-site. Concentrated juice constitutes the bulk of exports.

A symbolic fruit

The name of this plant refers directly to the Passion of Christ. The religious who saw him for the first time in South America saw, in the flower, the symbol of the last hours of Jesus’ life. The crown with its bristling points would represent the crown of thorns. The 3 styles would be the nails that were used for the crucifixion.

The 3 stamens would be the wounds. The 5 petals and 5 sepals would represent the apostles, excluding Judas who had betrayed Christ, and Peter who had denied him. Finally, the tendrils that allow the vine to climb would be reminiscent of whips.

Organic gardening

With a little luck and good protection during the winter in the form of mulch, we can grow the species P. incarnata in southern Quebec. At worst, we will have very beautiful purple flowers, at best fruits, small but delicious. A coniferous hedge planted to the west and north will further protect it.

As it is a climbing plant, it must be provided with a solid support (posts, wooden poles, arbor). The stems will likely die late in the fall, but chances are the roots will survive and give birth to new shoots the following summer.

As for the species P. edulis, it will be necessary to grow it in pots (about 30 cm in diameter), because it requires milder temperatures. We will take out the jar during the summer and we will bring it in the fall before the first frosts.

The seeds can be taken from a commercial fruit and sown after removing their gelatinous husk. Cover only with a very thin layer of potting soil, as the seed needs light to germinate. Germination should occur after 3 or 4 weeks. Many species of passionflower can be grown indoors for their flowers, each more splendid than the last.

Prune the plant in the spring to facilitate its move from the inside to the outside, but also to allow flowering and fruiting, which occur on the shoots of the year. Regularly fatten the plant with algae and fish extract.

Larger fruits will be obtained if the plant is pollinated by transferring pollen from one flower to another using an artist’s brush. It is better to pick only very ripe fruits, that is, when they are about to fall. You can put a net to collect them and prevent them from being damaged by falling.

Ecology and environment

To defend itself against predatory insects, passionflower uses various strategies. One of them is to secrete cyanogenic glycosides, which, when insect larvae eat the leaves of the plant, turn into hydrocyanic acid, a very toxic compound. But the Heliconius butterfly, which gets its exclusive food source from passionflower, managed to get around the problem.

It has developed, over the millennia of evolution, a rather complex strategy, allowing its larvae to metabolize cyanogenetic glycosides in a way that renders them harmless. They can therefore nibble peacefully the leaves of a plant that would constitute a violent poison for any other insect.

Nevertheless, passionflower has developed another strategy to specifically combat Heliconius larvae. Thanks to small glands called “nectaries” located on its stems and leaves, it secretes nectar that ants delight in. The latter is also the main predator of Heliconius.

Researchers at Stanford University found that the use of chemical insecticides to control Heliconius larvae was not only ineffective but paradoxically seemed to contribute to their multiplication.

Further study of the habits of these insects has shown that their long frequentation of plant poisons allowed them to quickly acquire resistance to chemical poisons. Ants, on the other hand, succumbed much more easily to these insecticides. In other words, chemical insecticides had exactly the opposite effect than expected: they killed predatory ants without eliminating Heliconius larvae.

Image Credit: Photo by Any Lane from pexels.com

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