Sunday, August 8, 2010

A passion for Passionfruits

One of the most exotic (or should that be quixotic?) blooms ever! The passionflower lends itself to science-fiction just as easily as its fruit does to gourmet cuisine.

How else would you explain the inexplicably weird radar-like contraptions that pop up above it?
Or the squiggly filaments, like a tutu gone haywire?

If the stigma and anthers look like alien pieces of technology, the flavour of the fruit too is simply out of this world! A hint of tartness and a touch of sweet melding in the warm sunny days to make its own exquisitely juicy, fruity flavour.

And it definitely has its own very distinctive fragrance too. Very summery, and fruity and tropical island-ish, of course. Check out perfumes like Keiko Mecheri Passiflora which draw on the fruity notes of the passionflower.

I had got a few passionfruits as a gift and saved up one to dry and plant. It ached a bit to not scoop up all that juicy pulp but I told myself that it was in a good cause. So I cut it open and spread the golden pulp on a few layers of tissue paper to dry.

I wasn't too sure whether it would grow because I had been told that the red passionfruits are difficult to sprout. Either that was a myth or I was very lucky because I got about 30 - 40 seedlings scrambling for attention.

You have to be pretty quick to transplant them into their own space, preferably where they can climb, because those curly tendrils take hold of anything they find and are soon clambering all over the place whether you like it or not!

I thought I had found the perfect sunny spot near a chain-link fence for one seedling but the vine just leaped and threw itself all over a nearby custard-apple tree. After encroaching on all available limbs and surfaces, it settled down to blooming exuberantly. And now it looks like one of those exotic experiments with 2 different fruits growing on one tree!

But it's such an amazing transformation, isn't it? From exotic, almost architectural blooms to perfect globes of speckled green, blushing red to summery sweet ripeness.

And if you thought that you're the only one who enjoys passionfruits, meet the Tawny Coaster. This pretty orange butterfly loves to lay its eggs on the leaves of the Passionfruit vine. This one didn't even budge when I zoomed in close for a Macro shot!
I wonder whether its babies will get a taste of passionfruits when they're busy munching on the leaves. I don't really mind. So long as they leave enough for some fruits for me!


  1. You dazzled me with these pics. Sooo beautiful. What a lovely gardener's tale too.

  2. Oh, yum! I fell in love with passionfruit on a visit to Hawaii many, many years ago. It was always a good reason to go back. We would never find one here. And if we did it wouldn't be as good - having to travel so far.
    There is a passionflower vine grown here but it's a different color and I don't think anyone eats the fruit.

    Thank you for the lovely photos - stunning, as always.

  3. Thanks Keats! This was a fun post! :)

  4. Thank you, Stephanie. The passionflowers are like supermodels... they look great no matter how you photograph them! :)
    I'm surprised that passionflowers will grow so far up north! I thought they are strictly tropical.
    This particular fruit ripens to reddish tint but I have the golden yellow ones too. Personally I think the red ones are tastier!

  5. Sunita, This is a gorgeous post!!!!! Brava! Your photos are stunning and so inspiring. Congratulations on your many seedlings. I am as grateful as the lovely butterfly with your efforts. ;>)

  6. Absolutely wonderful photographs!

  7. Thanks Carol :)
    That butterfly is so pretty, isn't it? I was so thrilled to see her busy laying eggs.

    Hi Charlotte! Good to see you here again :)
    I'm so glad you liked the photos.

  8. Wonderful, high-class pictures of a beautiful plant! I like how you showed the detailes in macros!
    Also, thank you for your comment on my blog. I laughdt when I read about light bulbs in the brain! It is very similar to what I feel when I see those pictures.

  9. I have often seen the flowers but I never knew there were fruits too!

  10. Hi Sunita,
    gosh, what lovely photos you took. Our passionfruit succumbed (as they all do here after about a year) to woody passionfruit virus, and the dying vine looks awful and messy. I wasnt going to grow one again, but your wonderful post reminded me of all the things I love about them - Oh you didnt mention the exotic scent of the flowers :)

  11. Excellent post. I have a couple of species collected during my strolls around Santurce and rather unusual.

    The Edulis is a favorite of the black beetles that visit daily my garden.

    Passiflora foetida and Passiflora pallida l. Until then.

    Good luck in your projects...

  12. Beautiful clear pictures, Sunita

    I have tasted the fruit and loved it. This is the first time I am seeing the flower - the photo looks real!

    Thank you.

  13. These pictures are absolutely beautiful. I wish passion flowers grew better here; some of the ornamental species do reasonably well as potted plants but none of the fruiting kinds reliably deliver their delicious fruit when they have to spend half the year indoors.

  14. aloha sunita,

    your first photo macro is stunning, what a beautiful intro to this vine....i love these flowers and am also addicted to liliquoi as they are called here in hawaii and the fruit turned into drinks, dessert and many other exotic flavorings.

  15. Thank you, Tatyana! I laughed a bit at myself too but it was so exciting to have all those ideas and visuals just bursting in my imagination after seeing those photos. I love the blogging world!

    Mridula, there are some which are grown for the flowers but most of the Passionflowers that I've seen growing in gardens in India are Passiflora edulis which develops fruits too.

  16. Thank you, Africanaussie :)
    That virus sounds terrible! But I hope you're not going to give up on the passionfruit. Something that looks so pretty and tastes so good definitely deserves a second (and third, fourth, fifth ...) chance!

    Thats wonderful, Antigonum Cajan! Have you posted about them yet? I must go and check ...
    Luckily the beetles haven't discovered my passionfruit vine yet. And I hope it stays that way!

  17. Thank you, Sandhya! Do you get the fruit in the markets where you live? I have yet to see them in the fruit shops here in Mumbai.

    You're lucky to get the plants of the ornamental passinflowers. I've yet to see them here in any nursery. They look so pretty, don't they?

  18. Thank you, Noel! This has to be one of those flowers which just call out to be photographed. "Liliquoi" ... that sounds so pretty. Are both the fruit and the flower called that? All those desserts and drinks sound very tempting! Do you think you could pass on some recipes please?

  19. Absolutely, Aaron! Though I personally love that scarlet passionflower growing in your garden.

  20. Great post! You really shows a lot of passion, Sunitha! :)

    Because the passion plays host for a host of butterflies, in order to ease the 'cost' of losing all the leaves due to a mass caterpillar attack, the plant has come with a smart plan: to deform the shapes of the new leaves, to confuse the female butterflies coming to lay eggs. Additionally, the leaves also sport rasied yellow or brown spots, mimicking butterfly eggs; to further put off new mother butterflies, so that they will go elsewhere rather than trying to crowd an already 'taken up' plant. That's no all; the coiled tendrils also take after caterpillars to further add more confusion to tell the new butterflies coming to lay eggs to go elsewhere.

  21. One of my favorite fruits Sunita. I have just planted three vines and there are many more scattered around the garden by birds. I just have to dig them up and find somewhere for them to run. There is a wild one that is shaped like a small banana, it is found in South America. I would love to get the seeds. I read somewhere it is used medicinally for the treatment of stomach cancer by the Peruvian Indians. It is called maracuja in Brazil and maracudja in the French islands. I am now yearning for a glass of fresh juice. It makes a great mousse as well!

  22. MMMMM, passion fruit! Great photos! I just posted about them last week. Too funny.

  23. Thanks Amila! Something that looks so beautiful and tastes so good naturally provokes a lot of enthusiasm, don't you think?
    Thanks for all the bonus info about the passionfruit plant. Really interesting!
    Do you have any info about which butterflies find the passionfruit vine interesting?

  24. They're one of my favourites too, Helen. Do you have the red/ purple ones or the yellow ones? The banana-shaped fruits sound interesting. I've never heard of those before! Now I must look out for those seeds too.

    Hi Rachel! Thanks, glad you liked the photos. The ones on your blog were really good too. I wish I had some of the ornamental ones too.

  25. What a lovely post for this hot summer day, Sunita ... I now crave one :)

  26. Hi Sunita, The flowers and the taste of the fruit is so exotic and wonderful. Passionfruit is my favourite fruit. Every day I can collect some and enjoy their golden juicy pulp. I usually mix it with some plain organic yogurt, it is so delicious. I thing Passionfruits what ever colour are the easiest to grow loke Pawpaws too, scatter the seed and voila! Not to forget the lovely Butterflies they make my day!

  27. The extreme closeup are awesome perspectives...Thomas

  28. Sunita I grow the yellow ones I would like to get the banana and red as well.

  29. Well, I guess I'd heard of passion fruit, but for some reason didn't make the connection with the passion vine.

    Your photos are awesome!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm not keeping up with things well.

  30. I know just what you mean, Joey! They can get addictive, can't they? And, my sympathies, I just got over our own season of hot summer days so I know what you must be going through.

    Trudi, I remember you telling me about the passionfruit - yoghurt combination . I must try it, it sounds delicious!
    So far I've only spotted the Tawny Coaster getting cosy with my passionfruit vine. I'm waiting to see other butterflies who love it too.

  31. Thanks, Thomas! I was in your city very briefly a few days ago. I loved the greenery (at least in the one place that I visited).

    Helen, the banana passionfruit sounds so exotic! I must look out for it too.

    Thanks, Sue. I know how tough it gets to keep up with all the blogs. Especialy when there are so many and each of them so interesting in so many different ways!

  32. This is my target plant to grow. I'm thinking of following your method, so I'll be off to buy some passion fruits soon. The tendril picture is very special.

  33. Make sure you buy some extra for yourself to feast on, Autumn Belle. I was really sore about the one I had to sacrifice in the name of propagation.

  34. Hi Sunita,
    I am so glad I stumbled upon your garden. Surrounded as I am by ever rising residential towers, it was sheer bliss to drop by here and see sparrows in Mumbai. Have a nice Sunday.

  35. Hi Lubna! Oh, there are plenty of sparrows here ... and bulbuls and sunbirds, and pariah kites and weaver birds and golden orioles and ...
    Do drop by here any time you want your daily fix of Nature Undiluted! :)

  36. Exotic photos! The first shot had me gasping...!! One of my favourite fruits too. I'm growing the purple variety but it hasn't bloomed yet. Love the shot with the custard does seem as if the smoothness will disappear with age;)Awesome Tawny coaster shot!

  37. Hi,
    I'm a photo blogger from Mumbai. A lot of browsers seem to end up on one particular post of mine while googling for flowering-blacony-plants-mumbai sort of words. I'm going to link to your blog and hopefully they'd find something relevant here.
    Mindless Mumbai

  38. Loved your way of looking at that photo, Kanak! lol!
    Are passionfruits easily available in Guwahati? I'm a bit depressed that Mumbai is deprived of these delicious fruits. At least I'm growing my own!

  39. Hi Kunal! That sounds like a great plan to me. Also sounds like a great idea for a post I should've done ages ago.

  40. What colours and what pictures. Terrific close-ups. And congratulations on getting a mention in the paper dnaindia. I remember leaving a comment somewhere congratulating you in the middle of a hectic week here, but I can't find it. No harm being repetitive when congratulating, I think! :D

  41. Definitely one of those flowers you wouldn't believe if you didn't see it!

  42. sunita, such a beautiful post! i long to visit your urban garden!

    oh, and remember what we discussed on FB? would you please drop me an email, i have something to ask you.

    - s

  43. A: Butterflies of the family: Nymphalidae (subfamily: Heliconiinae) have a liking for passion. Of your butterflies, Indian Fritllary, Lacewing and Cruiser all choose the family Passifloraceae as food plants for their babies.

    Viru & Praveen. If we can overcome those two, we should be in business. Yuvi will also given no mercy. Raina and Dhoni should look forward to some rib music. And your tail, plenty of toe-crushes. Looking forward to extending a lot of brotherly love on Saturday. If Karthik is not dropped down the order, he will not exceed 20; he just don't know to deal with th moving ball when Sanga stands up.

  44. Hello Sunita!
    What beautiful passionfruit pictures - they are making my mouth water!

    Sadly my one and only attempt at growing a passionfruit was a grafted black variety and it did not go too well. The rootstock took over and turned into a rampant few-flowered and very enthusiastic fruitless weed :( You have just about inspired me to try again as I do love the taste of passionfuit and more butterflies in the garden is always a delightful bonus!

  45. My apologies, all of you, for not replying earlier but I was a bit too caught up with too many things :P

    Thank you, Raji. Yes, it does feel good to have the media talking about one's blog. Very vain of me, maybe, but I like it (as long as they're saying nice things ;D )
    And yes, I'm quite partial to that first pic too.

    Absolutely, Diana! :)

    Thanks, Sharon :)
    Okay, I'll be mailing you soon. You've got my curiosity working double-time!

    Wonderful! Thanks, Amila. Now I have to go and look up what their caterpillars look like. I haven't seen any of these butterflies hovering around my passionfruit vine yet but who knows ...
    Aah ... cricket! I wish I could've kept better track of what's going on. But like I said, I was inundated with work and didn't have time to spare for the men in blue. But saturday's game sounds interesting so I'm definitely going to take a peek.

    Heidi, a black variety! Wow! That's new to me. I wonder where I can get hold of one now. I definitely hope you're going to give it another chance. Its too yummy a fruit and too pretty a bloom to give up on.

  46. Great post Sunita - and your pictures are beautiful - particularly the first one


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