Passion Vine

Passion flower in summer.
I don't leave my farm every day, but when I do, I pass the passion vine that grows across the road from my house. We're 20 miles from a grocery store, 6 miles from the nearest Post Office, so trips out are for accumulated errands. But each day that I do drive out, I can't help but notice this plant. I've decided to write about it here, not because it's in bloom, but because the fruits are ripe, now.

You may not know this plant even though native varieties grow in many parts of the world. You would probably recognize the flavor, even though you don't realize it - you've likely tasted it in "tropical punch" mixes, either canned or bottled. Tropicana tropical punch, for instance, has passion fruit as one of the flavors.

The fence across the road from my house is the perfect spot for passion vine.

If you look up passion vine on Google, you'll find the phrase "passion vines are mostly tropical." It's true, there are lots in the tropics, some with larger fruit, some with smaller, with varying colors of flowers. However, the native passion vine (Passiflora incarnata) grows from Pennsylvania to Florida, Texas to southern Missouri, where I live. It grows in full sun so if you were to go on a walk in Ozarks woods, you'd find it growing in meadows and open areas. The plant climbs to about 30 feet and will climb a trellis but seems happiest climbing over waist-high plants or up onto fences. It spreads from the roots, so if you think about planting it in your garden, you might reconsider where it goes, or plant it in a large planter. Years ago I mistakenly planted some seed (from some I'd cooked and thrown away after straining) along my garden fence and by the second year, had sprouts coming up in my pathways and other planting beds. It took several years of weeding to finally get it out of the garden. If you're interested in where the plant got its name - invented by Spanish Catholic missionaries in order to convert the Natives to Christianity, you can read the history here.You may recall the missionaries gave the Natives a choice: convert or be killed. I'm not a fan of the story.
The fruit, not yet ripe, on November 30.

What's so special about passion vine, you may be wondering? It's attractive in summer with lush, green foliage that quickly covers an arbor or trellis, and the lavender to purple flowers. But there's much more than just a green vine, to this plant. The fruit has a tart, tropical flavor. When you see the seed, surrounded by a small amount of flesh, you don't instantly think, "gotta eat that." But think about pomegranates, similar in that you eat the flesh surrounding the seed.
Ripe passion fruit.
The fruit doesn't get ripe and develop its flavor until it has shriveled and turned from green (see the one at the top of the plate, above) to light tan. To use the fruit, scrape out the seeds and flesh, discarding the peeling. Put the seeds into a saucepan with a cup or two of water and simmer for about 10 minutes. Run the pulp and liquid through a colander (or a potato ricer works even better), collecting the juice and pulp. You can mix it with sugar and more water, or cook it down to a sauce. Several years ago my partner, Josh, made pie filling like you would make for a cream pie, combining passion fruit pulp, then made cream puffs and stuffed the cream puffs with the passion fruit custard. They were outstanding!

But passion vine's real claim to fame is its use as a sedative. If you buy sedative or relaxing herb capsules in the health food store, often labeled as, "Valerian Combo" you'll find in the list of ingredients: valerian (a relaxing herb used for back aches), wood betony (another relaxing herb) and passion vine herb. Passion vine herb (the leaves and growing tips, dried) is a good sedative by itself and can be found in the supplements aisle of many stores by itself. When I have back aches, I often turn to the Valerian Combination capsules. Or you can make a tea of passion vine herb, although it's not very tasty. It's good in relaxing herb blends for people who have difficulty sleeping - which is also why I put it into my Restful Sleep Dream Pillow blend.
Bulk passion vine herb.

Passion vine is an herb we carry in our shop. It's an ingredient in some of my relaxing dream pillow blends and we sell it in pound and half pound amounts for folks who are making dream pillows. (To learn more about dream pillows, visit my website, or my Dream Pillows blog). You might also enjoy my book, Making Herbal Dream Pillows which has been in print since 1998 and available on my website. I started writing about dream pillows in the early 1990s and have published 3 books on the subject. Back then, most people had no idea what a dream pillow was. Now I find my words and formulas copied or imitated on lots of other websites. I have to take it as a compliment, even if I don't get credit.
My book of herb formulas and history of Dream Pillows.

So you see, passion vine is a pretty interesting plant. Native Americans used the roots, fruit and herb for a variety of ailments. Current research (as quoted in the Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants, Eastern and Northern edition, "shows extracts are mildly sedative, slightly reduce high blood pressure and increase respiration rate.")

Every time I pass the plant I remember those cream puffs, filled with passion fruit custard. The fruit is ripening still, even this late in the year so maybe I'll gather up a batch and cook up something.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting information on the passion fruit and flower. I think I am going to get some of those capsules for backaches that I seem to get often this time of year after a hard day of work.