Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fruit Of The Week - Passion Fruit

Fruit History:
While the origin of the Passion Fruit plant is unknown, it is generally believed to be native to Brazil where 16th Century Spanish Catholics named it "Flor de las cinco llagas" or "flower of the five wounds" after its distinctive purple flower. Today, about 400 years later, passion fruit is grown nearly everywhere in the tropical belt but known by a variety of different names. Its common name is Maracuya in Ecuador and Brazil, Parcha in Venezuela, Lilikoi in Hawaii, and Chinola or Parchita in Puerto Rico.

Passion Fruit was introduced into Hawaii in 1880 and it quickly became popular in home gardens. It naturalized in Hawaii's almost perfect climate and, by 1930, could be found wild on all the islands of the Hawaiian chain. In 1951, the University of Hawaii chose passion fruit as the most promising crop for agricultural development and undertook a program to create an industry for production of quick-frozen passion fruit juice concentrate. By 1958 the plantings had expanded to cover 490 hectares and the industry was rather well established.

Long-term success was not to be however. Viruses damaging the vines, high labor costs, and the rapidly increasing value of land combined to wipe out this young industry. Today, there are no more commercial passion fruit plantations left in Hawaii but the fruit's unique flavor remains deeply rooted in the taste preferences of the Hawaiian people. Large quantities of passion fruit juice and concentrate are shipped to Hawaii every year. It is thought, as a matter of fact, that Hawaii may well have the highest per capita consumption of passion fruit juice in the world.

Australia is another area of high passion fruit consumption, again, due to history and familiarity. Passion fruit flourished there before 1900 in what had been banana fields. It attained great importance until 1943 when the vines were devastated by a widespread virus. Although some plantations have been rebuilt, they can not produce enough passion fruit to satisfy the demand and imports make up the balance.

It is in South America that most of the world's passion fruit is currently grown. Starting in the mid 1950's, passion fruit cultivation became widespread in Colombia and Venezuela. Later it spread to Ecuador. Today, South America, and particularly Ecuador, is the main exporter of passion fruit concentrate to the Western World.

When compared to huge crops like banana (estimated 45 million MT per year), the production of passion fruit is miniscule...only an estimated 640,000 MT. The market for fresh fruit is almost nonexistent in the U.S. although this may change as consumers reach out for new, different, and more exotic fruit and produce. In Brazil however, fresh passion fruit is immensely popular. The demand is so strong that although they grow much of their own fruit, they have had to import additional supplies, primarily from Ecuador, in recent years. In Brazil, the fruit is used in fresh beverages made both at home and in "stalls" or juice stands popular throughout the country. - Passion Fruit Juice

Health Benefits:
The fruit is a very good source of dietary fiber. 100 g fruit pulp contains 10.4 g or 27% of dietary fiber. Good fiber in the diet helps remove cholesterol from the body. In addition dietary insoluble fiber by acting as bulk laxative helps protect the colon mucous membrane by decreasing exposure time to toxic substances in the colon as well as binding to cancer causing chemicals in the colon. - Nutrition & You

A 2008 study found that subjects who took passion fruit extracts and who suffer from asthma, got relief from symptoms of coughing and wheezing by 76 percent. The antioxidants found in passion fruit is believed to block histamine, reduce allergy and inflammation; passion fruit therefore has the health benefit of reducing the symptoms of asthma. - Tommy Fassbender

 Native Americans used the fruit and vine leaves to make sleeping medicine. Through scientific research the leaves have been found to contain somniferous (sleep inducing) compounds that help the body to relax and sleep easier. Similar sedative-like properties in the flowers are used to treat nervous-related gastrointestinal ailments as well as to calm nervous disorders and over-excitement in children. - Fruit Health Benefits

Passion Fruit contains high potassium, the fruit can play a role in lowering blood pressure. High Sodium diets are a preventable cause of high blood pressure and this fruit contains low sodium. Try to limit your intake of sodium to no more than 2,300 mg per day. Even less is recommended for people who may already have this condition. - Olde Cashmere

Sano, Sugiyama, Ito, Katano, and Ishihata (2011) investigated the vasorelaxing effects of the major polyphenols found in passion fruit seeds. Vasorelaxation refers to the widening of blood vessels resulting from relaxation of smooth muscle cells within the blood vessel walls. This widening of blood vessels leads to a decrease in vascular pressure which is important for a healthy cardiovascular system. The researchers found that both piceatannol and scirpusin B offered potent vasorelaxant effects in rat aortas (aorta is the the large artery that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart). While both of these compounds offered cardiovascular health benefits, scirpusin B exerted a greater vasorelaxant effect. - Heal With Food

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