What Is Passion Fruit (Lilikoi)?
The first time anyone tastes something new, the moment can become etched in memory. This is true, of course, if it’s a “Wow, I want more of that” event or possibly quite the opposite.
My Wow Moment happened in Hawaii when I bit into a passion fruit bar, a riff on the classic Lemon Bars: A smooth custardy tart/sweet filling baked atop a shortbread crust and dusted with powdered sugar—homey yet sophisticated.
Passion fruit’s flavor and acid notes keep luring me back again and again. I’d never tasted anything like it—not mango, not papaya, not star fruit—and when I’m in Hawaii I always seek it out at farmers’ markets.
The fruit grows wild on vines and has a thick shiny shell. The kind I’ve found is green at first and turns to a lemon yellow when ripe. As the fruit ripens more, the shell shrivels and puckers, but the fruity insides are perfectly fine to eat. The fruit in the basket shows fruit in various stages of maturity. I wound up using all of them for the recipe.
The inside of the fruit is filled with a seedy pulp, and it’s all edible. The green fruit is much tarter than the yellow, but I use both ripe and unripe fruits in baking because sugar mellows the acidity.
If you’re botanically inclined, the scientific name for passion fruit is Passiflora edulis. And surprise, surprise, it’s a type of berry! Here’s what Wikipedia has to say: “The fruit is a pepo, a type of berry, round to oval, either yellow or dark purple at maturity, with a soft to firm, juicy interior filled with numerous seeds. The fruit is both eaten and juiced, the juice often added to other fruit juices to enhance aroma.”