Passion fruit is the edible fruit of the passion flower. Spanish explorers coined the name in honor of the passion of Christ. For them, the appearance of the passion flower symbolized many Christian beliefs. The fruit is also called parcha, markisa and konyal.
There are two types of passion fruit that differ in appearance but taste the same. One is about the size and shape of a large egg, with a purple-brown skin. The other is quite a bit larger, round, and about the size of an orange. This type is bright yellow on the outside. Both contain a jelly-like pulp with hundreds of small black seeds.
Passion fruit by itself tends to taste tart. It is usually used with other types of fruit in recipes to lighten its tangy taste. Along with the flowers, the fruit is known for its sweet smelling fragrance, and because of this, it's sometimes added to food simply to enhance its aroma.
Popular in gourmet cooking, passion fruit is used in many desserts, including mousses and creme brulee. It's also used in some jams. The fruit is also used in main dishes, such as lobster with passion fruit butter sauce. Juice, punch, liqueurs and cocktails have a tropical flair when it's used as an ingredient.
Passion fruit grows on a vine in its native tropical and subtropical regions. Commercially, it is grown in Brazil, the Caribbean, Australia, Africa and some areas of the southern United States. Because of the beauty of its flowers and the high demand for the fruit, the plants have been successfully cultivated in native as well as non-native areas.
The fruit has also been used in traditional medicine, and it is believed by many to have hundreds of medicinal properties. Its natural chemicals are used to lower blood pressure, control muscle spasms, and treat asthma. The fruit and its leaves also work as a sedative, helping to induce sleep and calm nervousness or other mood disorders. Research has suggested that passion fruit extracts may kill cancer cells in developing fetuses. It's also thought to expel worms, kill bacteria, and enhance the libido.