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Page 287 Passionfruits An estimated 3,000 different fruits occur in the tropics, but apart from banana, pineapple, papaya, and mango, they seldom appear regularly on the world's tables. However, given the current enthusiasm for the passionfruit (Passiflora species), that group of fruits may soon have another addition. Because of its strong, pleasing aroma and flavor, passionfruit juice is becoming an increasingly popular ingredient in drinks. Future production could be sizable because the universal demand for fruit-based soft drinks is rising. (In the United States, for instance, fruit-based drinks are expected to be the next “colas” that will soon become a major part of the soft-drink industry.) Already, passionfruit cultivation is spreading, and a number of large corporations are investing in it heavily. 1 So far, most commercial passionfruit projects are based on a single species: the purple or yellow common passionfruit 2 (Passiflora edulis), which is native to Brazil and nearby tropical areas. However, at least 40 Passiflora species produce fruits, of which 11 are cultivated on at least a small scale. 3 Several that occur in the Andes are highlighted in this chapter. 4 Research to select strains with high yields and good fruit quality could transform these into significant commercial resources. All these plants are vines that produce round or ellipsoid fruits about the size of goose eggs. They are usually propagated by seed and are grown on trellises or fences. Their horticultural requirements are like those of the common passionfruit. All require moderate moisture, but vary in their tolerance to cooler temperatures. Depending on the 1 One measure of the enthusiasm for the passionfruit is the “craze” sweeping Puerto Rico. Starting from nothing in 1976, Puerto Rico now produces more than 3,000 tons of passionfruit a year. Two dozen juices and drinks are being sold, and the island's annual sales are estimated at $10 million, and rising. Hawaiian Punch is one U.S. drink that has included passionfruit juice for decades. 2 This is known in Spanish as maracuja or granadilla. However, both names are applied, in different parts of the tropics, to several species of passionfruit. 3 Many Quito backyards, for example, contain one or two passionfruit plants hung on trellises for their shade and their fruit. 4 Other promising species found in lower altitude parts of the Andes include P. serrulata, P. laurifolia, and P. quadrangularis. These are basically tropical lowland species, and for this reason are not highlighted in this report.
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Page 288 ~ enlarge ~ Curuba. (A. Ospina) species, pollination is by bees, wasps, hummingbirds, or man. All can be eaten out of hand, or the juice extracted for use in fruit salads, desserts, or cold beverages. SPECIES Curuba. 5 This species (Passiflora mollissima), often called the banana passionfruit in English, is found in the wild at midelevations 5 In its Latin American homeland, it is known as curuba, curuba de Castilla, or curuba sabanera blanco (Colombia); tacso, tagso, tauso (Ecuador); parcha (Venezuela); tumbo or curuba (Bolivia); tacso, tumbo, tumbo del norte, trompos, or tintin (Peru). Information from J. Morton.
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Page 289 in Andean valleys from Venezuela and eastern Colombia to Bolivia and Peru. It is native to that area and seems to have been domesticated shortly before the Spanish Conquest. Today, it is cultivated in home gardens and commercial orchards, and the highly prized fruits are regularly available in local markets. Colombia has some outstanding varieties; it has begun exporting the fruits, and has established a national committee to study the biology and agronomy of this species. 6 Curuba juice is considered the finest of all passionfruit juices, and a wine is made from it. The fruits are also used in jams, jellies, and gelatin desserts. In addition, the pulp is strained (to remove the seeds), blended with milk and sugar, and served as a drink called “sorbete de curuba.” It is also made into ice cream. Combined with alcoholic liquors (aguardiente) and sugar, it is served as a cocktail. The plant seems suited to colder conditions than the common passionfruit. In the Andes, it prospers at elevations up to 3,400 m (in Cuzco, for instance) and briefly tolerates temperatures of −5°C. Under cultivation, it is high yielding. When densely spaced, well weeded, and fertilized, annual harvests in Colombia are said to reach 300 fruits per vine, amounting to some 500,000 fruits per hectare weighing about 30,000 kg. The hard-shelled, golden-yellow fruits 7 are up to 15 cm long and weigh 50–150 g. Although little known outside the Andes, the plant has escaped from cultivation and become naturalized in Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, and Papua New Guinea. In Hawaii it is permitted only on the island of Hawaii, where it grows wild in the forests and its vigorous vines strangle trees. Sweet Granadilla. This passionfruit (Passiflora ligularis) is native and common from western South America to Central Mexico. Its white translucent pulp is almost liquid, acidulous, and sweet smelling. The rind is strong, so that the fruit transports well without injury. Indeed, Colombia is now exporting this fruit to Europe. 8 Since the plant grows at moderate elevations, it seems sufficiently cold resistant to withstand light frost, although probably not extended periods of temperatures below about −1°C. In Ecuador, it is cultivated mainly between 2,200 and 2,700 m, but in Bolivia and Colombia its cultivation has been extended to as low as 800 m and as high as 3,000 m. The sweet granadilla was introduced into Hawaii probably in the late 1800s and was naturalized there by 1929. It flourishes in many 6 Information from L. de Escobar. 7 A form called “curuba quiteña” in Colombia has dark-green fruit (even when fully ripe), with orange pulp. 8 It is widely cultivated in the Urrao area of Colombia (Department of Antioquia).
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Page 290 moist, woody areas, and its fruits are sold in local markets. It is also being grown in a small way in New Zealand. This plant sets fruits less abundantly than the common passionfruit, but can produce two crops a year. Because of its resistance to root and collar rot, it is also a useful rootstock for other passionfruit species. The fruits are more than acceptable for eating fresh and for drinks. However, some people find it too sweet and flat, which is why lime juice is often added. Colombian Passionfruit. This little-known species (Passiflora antioquiensis) is a pretty and exotic-looking plant—distinguished from other cultivated passionfruits by its flowers, which are bright red—and very ornamental. Also known as the banana passionfruit, its fruits are similar in appearance to those of the curuba but are sharper pointed and are juicier and of better eating quality. A native of Colombia, it is grown at higher altitudes in the northern Andes, but still at a somewhat lower level than that where curuba is grown. The sweet fruits are 4–5 cm long, greenish yellow outside and pale yellow inside. They are eaten fresh, in beverages, and in desserts. When eaten out of hand they have a delicious sweet flavor, although they lose much of their flavor when cooked. Their thick skin can make it difficult to extract the pulp. So far, this plant is not commercially cultivated. Its need to grow in the shade, the long peduncle on the fruits, and the long time the fruit take to develop are obstacles to its production on a large scale. Curubejo. Also known as granadilla de Quijos, this vine (Passiflora popenovii) has fragrant red, white, and blue flowers. It is quite rare and is mostly found growing wild. However, at about 1,300 m elevation on the eastern slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes, it is cultivated on a small scale. Its fruits are found in markets around Baños in central Ecuador. The plant is also cultivated in El Tambo Municipio in the Cauca Department of Colombia where it is regularly propagated by cuttings. 9 The sweet juice is highly regarded and is enjoyed for its rich aroma and taste. Less acidic than the common passionfruits, this species is particularly good for eating out of hand. The rind is thick but tender, and the outer color is green even on ripe fruit. Given the commercial success of the common passionfruit, it seems possible that this rare fruit—so far unimproved, yet more flavorful—will do even better. However, it reportedly sets fruits only once a year 9 Information from L. de Escobar.
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Page 291 ~ enlarge ~ The yellow-skinned curuba is common in the markets of the Andes. (T. Johns) (around Easter in the Andes), which may be a limitation in some situations. Galupa. 10 This plant (Passiflora pinnatistipula) is grown for its edible fruits in small, scattered areas all the way from Chile to Colombia. It is produced in climates of average temperature between 16°C and 22°C, and is easily and quickly propagated by seed. Its origin seems to be the Andes of Peru and Chile between 2,500 and 3,000 m altitude. The fruits are eaten raw or used to prepare beverages. They are shaped like common passionfruits, but are smaller, being 4–5 cm. in diameter. The brittle rind turns purple at maturity and encloses numerous seeds surrounded by a yellow pulp that is fragrant and has a sweet-acidulous flavor. Although the fruit is agreeable, its yields are said to be low, and it is seldom found in the markets. Given research, that might change. In its wild form, the plant grows as a tangle. Because of its quick and rampant growth, galupa may find a place as a pioneer and specialty cash crop. Chulupa. The chulupa (Passiflora maliformis) 11 is a little-known passionfruit that could have a big future. Its fruits have excellent flavor 10 Common names for this species include galupa, bejuco (which is also used for other passionfruits), tintin, puru-puru, and chulupa. 11 In the Andes this fruit is sometimes known as granadilla de piedra or granadilla de hueso, for the hard rind, and in the West Indies it is known as sweetcup or conch apple.
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Page 292 ~ enlarge ~ Sweet granadilla. (N. Vietmeyer) and are commonly marketed in Bogotá. When PROEXPO, a government agency that promotes Colombia's exports, sent collections of different passionfruits to food fairs in Europe, the chulupa received high marks for flavor. This plant occurs naturally at midelevations (1,200–1,500 m) in the Andes of Colombia. It is a more tropical species than the others highlighted in this chapter, and is already well known in the West Indies. Although still a wild plant, the chulupa can probably be cultivated. In trials at La Mesa, near Bogotá, the plant thrived and yielded well under the standard methods used to grow the common passionfruit. 12 The woody vine, sometimes climbing to 10 m or more, often drapes trees, walls, and small buildings. It is noted for its resistance to pests and diseases that affect its relatives. The fruits, borne continuously and prolifically, are apple-shaped. Fully ripe, they are green or yellow, with numerous white dots. The rind varies from flexible and leathery to hard and brittle. The pulp is normally pale orange-yellow, juicy, sweet or subacid, and pleasingly aromatic. It contains many small flat, black seeds. The juice is excellent for cold drinks. Jamaicans, for instance, serve it with wine and sugar. 12 Information from L. de Escobar.
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Page 293 At present this fruit has one drawback: the often tough rind can frustrate consumers. Research to select and propagate easy-opening varieties would do much to advance this species. Also, hybridization—for example, with its close relative P. serrulata, which has a papery pericarp—may provide a new fruit with a thinner rind. Rosy Passionfruit. In Bogotá, another well-known passionfruit is Passiflora cumbalensis. 13 This banana-shaped “curuba bogotana” is much like the true curuba (Passiflora mollissima, see above), but it has a bright, attractive, red skin. 14 Its aromatic, mildly biting orange flesh is used to flavor drinks, ice cream, yogurt, or other products. Some judge the fruit to be inferior to selected strains of P. mollissima, but it still is of sufficient quality to place the fruits in local markets and supermarkets. Selecting improved varieties could likely boost its acceptance even more. The rosy passionfruit is fairly widespread in the northern Andes 15 but is most extensively cultivated in the central and eastern mountains of Colombia, especially in the Department of Cundinamarca. It grows naturally from 1,800 to more than 3,000 m throughout Colombia and into northern Ecuador. It seems to hybridize with other varieties as well as with P. mixta. Hybridizations have also been effected between the rosy passionfruit and the curuba itself, and this line of research seems particularly promising. In fact, hybridization is a promising road to valuable new fruits among many of the different passionfruit species. It might, for instance, lead to much larger fruits and maybe even to seedless ones. Related Species. 16 Exploratory research might also include other wild Andean passionfruits, some of which are mentioned below. Passiflora schlimiana This species grows from 2,000–3,500 m in the Sierra Nevada of Colombia. The juice, said to taste like blackberry juice, is used to prepare sherbets and jams. The fruits are yellow and measure up to 12 cm long. Although now hardly known, this is an unusual species much deserving of research. 13 It was until recently considered a separate species, Passiflora goudotiana. Now it is considered P. cumbalensis var. goudotiana. Escobar, 1987. 14 This fruit, which we have termed the “rosy passionfruit,” currently has no common name in English. 15 Seven varieties of P. cumbalensis can be found from northern Colombia to southcentral Peru in cool to cold areas between about 1,800 and 4,100 m. Other common names for the species include taxo, tauso, and gulian in Ecuador, and puru puru in Peru. The variety found in the Bogotá area is considered the best of the species. 16 Information from M. Tapia and L. de Escobar.
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Page 294 Passiflora ampullacea Although this species is very little known, some botanists who have eaten the fruits and seen the plant's vigorous growth consider it to be a promising future crop. The fruits are much larger than those of the curuba and the rind is thicker, which protects the fruit on the way to market. The common name in central Ecuador, to which the species is endemic, is gulin. This species also hybridizes easily with P. mollissima. 17 Passiflora tripartita This plant (which may not be a distinct species but a variety of the curuba) grows all over Colombia and has fruits as good as those of curuba. Passiflora mixta (the curuba de Indio of Colombia). Passiflora ambigua (Colombia, a fruit much like the curubejo). Passiflora mandonii (Bolivia) a close relative of the galupa, but with longer fruit. PROSPECTS Andean Region. With the rising international interest in passionfruits, the Andean native species are a resource of large potential. They seem ripe for research and could be increasingly used locally as well as becoming valuable exports. Horticultural and marketing analyses, trials, and comparisons should be undertaken quickly. It seems probable that many of the Andean species initially will be low yielding, although they are likely to show outstanding response to modern methods and research. There is little factual information available on the Andean passionfruits. This must be generated by comparative tests in the areas where these species are available. Research institutes in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela could provide information that may be useful as the basis for industrial development. The future of these fruits will depend upon horticultural development. The production of pulp and concentrate has extremely good prospects if commercial-scale production can be established and maintained. Passionfruits seem particularly suited to countries with inexpensive labor because the fruits have to be picked by hand and must be grown on supports such as trellises. 17 See Escobar, 1981. It has been used in experimental crosses at the MAG (Ministerio de Agricultura y Gandería) Agricultural Station, Guaslan, near Riobamba, Ecuador.
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Page 295 Other Developing Areas. Countries such as Brazil, Sri Lanka, and Kenya that have commercial passionfruit production should explore the potential of the other species, including those from the Andes. Among such lesser known species are some with bigger and juicier fruits as well as different flavors from today's common passionfruit. These vines are possibly useful in agroforestry systems with trees used as supports. The combination might be good for both tropical highlands and lowlands throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Many tropical and subtropical countries with land suitable for cultivating passionfruits are not now exploiting them. The knowledge to grow the plants is available and trials should be undertaken, but caution should be exercised because the economics of their production is uncertain, given their generally primitive horticultural state and because some species are so prolific they might become weeds. Industrialized Regions. New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and a few other warm-temperate regions produce the common passionfruit for commerce as well as for backyard planting. Species from the Andes could strengthen such enterprises by possibly adding a few degrees of extra cold tolerance, 18 by providing sweeter or different tasting fruits, as well as by perhaps increasing the fruit size. In drinks and other processed products, a great future is likely to be found. Hybrids between the different passionfruit species may provide important new fruits, perhaps larger, maybe seedless, and probably more robust in their growth. 18 Hybrids with the North American maypop (P. incarnata) are another source for cold resistance. Information from R. Knight.
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