Monday, March 30, 2009

Passionate Fruits?

Thanks to its name, the passion fruit shows up on a lot of Valentine's Day menus. But what's passionate about the passion fruit? Well, we hate to disillusion all you romantics out there, but the name has nothing to do with its powers as an aphrodisiac. The fruit of this tropical vine was dubbed the passion fruit by Catholic friars arriving in its Brazilian homeland, who saw Christian symbolism in the shape and markings of the flowers.

As Elizabeth Schneider writers in her book, Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables, "The complex and remarkably beautiful flowers are the origin of this name, with different parts of the bloom representing the wounds, crucifixion nails, crown of thorns, and the Apostles." Some of the friars even saw the vine as justification for their missionary work; to them, it was clearly put there to bring the indigenous populations to Christianity.

That's a lot of symbolic freight for one plant to carry. Luckily, no matter how you look at the plant, the passion fruit itself is a delicious, sweet-tart treat that has been enjoyed all around the world for centuries.

The easiest way to eat your passion fruit is to cut off the top and scoop out the jelly-like golden pulp with a spoon. The small black seeds are edible and pleasantly crunchy, although they can be sieved out for a more elegant presentation. Let the fruit soften and get a little wrinkly before eating for the fullest flavor and aroma.


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