The Coastal Gardener: The allure of passion fruit

July 30, 2010|By Ron Vanderhoff
  • Passion fruit are easy to grow in coastal gardens. The pretty flowers are followed by tasty fruit; guava-like and deliciously sweet/tart - pure ambrosia.
Passion fruit are easy to grow in coastal gardens. The… (Ron Vanderhoff,…)

Ten years ago, my daughter Kristin, then just 7 years old, and I were exploring Strybing Arboretum, the famous botanical garden in San Francisco.

There, on a back wall were several enormous passion vines, with flowers of purple, blue, white, red and coral. My daughter was already fascinated with the amazingly intricate flowers, which to this day remain her favorite of all flowers.

But on that summer day in San Francisco I went one step further. I plucked a ripe fruit from a Passiflora edulis and opened it. The fruity, tropical aroma was overwhelming and added another element to her passion flower addiction. I offered her a taste. Not sure at first what to make of the funny looking jelly-like inside, she eventually relented.

That was it. From that point forward, passion fruits have been a regular member of our summer fruit bowl and a fruiting vine has always been in our garden.


Most local gardeners are familiar with ornamental passion vines, knowing them as easy, fast-growing plants that can cover a fence almost before they've put the planting shovel back into the toll shed.

The flowers of passion vines are like none other, beautifully intricate, that demand closer inspection by any passerby. But in gardens it is one species, Passiflora edulis, that produces the extra bonus of delicious and fragrant tropical fruit — and lots of it.

If you haven't tasted a fresh passion fruit, you don't know what you're missed. If you're curious, stop in Gelson's, Wholesome Choice or Whole Foods this weekend and, with a little luck, you will find a few tucked away in the corner, usually at about $5 to $6 per pound. The fruit is sweetest when slightly shriveled, so don't be alarmed by their unusual appearance at the market. Luckily, coastal California is the perfect place to grow a passion fruit, and they couldn't be easier, and a lot less expensive than the market.

The unique flavor of a passion fruit is appealing: a musky, guava-like, deliciously sweet/tart flavor. Passion fruit blends well with citrus, strawberries and other fruits, especially tropical flavors.

My daughter and I simply slice the fruit in half, then scoop out the rich pulp and seeds with a spoon. The seeds are small and edible, but if you prefer, the flavorful juice can be separated from the seeds by squeezing through cheesecloth.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles