THERE are two types of passion fruit (scientific name: Passiflora edulis) and both have clearly differing exterior appearances. The bright yellow variety of passion fruit can grow up to the size of a grapefruit, has a smooth, glossy, light and airy rind. The dark purple passion fruit is smaller than a lemon.

The fruit was given the name "passion" by Catholic missionaries who thought that certain parts of the fruit bore some religious connections. These missionaries, who were joined by the Spanish conquistadors in South America (where the fruit was native), saw a way of illustrating the crucifixion: The three stigmas were to reflect the three nails in Jesus Christ’s hands and feet.

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On the other hand, the threads of the passion flower were believed to be a symbol of the crown of thorns. The vines tendrils were likened to the whips. The five anthers represented the five wounds. The 10 petals and sepals regarded to resemble the apostles (excluding Judas and Peter).

Fresh passion fruit is known to be high in carotenoids (vitamin A) potassium, and dietary fiber. Passion fruit juice is a good source of ascorbic acid (vitamin C).

It is easy to prepare passion fruit. It is cut in half lengthwise and the seedy pulp is scooped out with a spoon. It can also be squeezed through two thicknesses of cheesecloth or pressed through a strainer to remove the seeds.

The resulting rich juice, which has been called a natural concentrate, can be sweetened and diluted with water or other juices (especially orange or pineapple), to make cold drinks. The juice can also be used to flavor cocktails or fruit salads.

After primary juice extraction, some processors employ an enzymatic process to obtain supplementary "secondary" juice from the double juice sacs surrounding each seed. The high starch content of the juice gives it exceptional viscosity. To produce a free-flowing concentrate, it is desirable to remove the starch by centrifugal separation in the processing operation.

Passion fruit has several uses. In Australia, where it is available commercially fresh or in canned, passion fruit is commonly used in desserts, such as the topping for the pavlova (a meringue cake), cheesecake, and vanilla slice.

In the Dominican Republic, passion fruit (called chinola) is used to make juice and jams. The chinola-flavored syrup is used on shaved ice. The fruit is also eaten raw sprinkled with sugar. In the nearby Puerto Rico, parcha (as the fruit is known) is widely believed to lower blood pressure.

In Brazil, passion fruit mousse is a common dessert, and passion fruit seeds are routinely used to decorate the tops of certain cakes. Passion fruit juice is also very common. In Indonesia, it is eaten straight as a fruit. It is also common to strain the passion fruit for its juice and cook it with sugar to make thick syrup. Bottles or plastic jugs of concentrated syrup are sold in many supermarkets. Dilution of one part syrup to 4 (or more) parts water is recommended.

In Hawaii, where it is called lilikoi, passion fruit is normally eaten raw. Hawaiians usually crack the rind of the lilikoi either with their hands or teeth and suck out the flavorful pulp and seeds. Lilikoi-flavored syrup is a popular topping for shave ice. Ice cream and mochi are also flavored with lilikoi, as well as many other desserts such as cookies, cakes, and ice cream. Lilikoi is also favored as a jam, jelly, as well as butter.

In the Philippines, where the fruit is recently introduced, it is commonly sold in public markets and in public schools. Some vendors sell the fruit with a straw on it to suck the seeds and juices inside. Unfortunately, it is not so popular, because of its sour flavor and the fruit is very seasonal.

Unknowingly, the seeds of passion fruits yield 23 percent oil, which is similar to sunflower and soybean oil and accordingly has edible as well as industrial uses. The seed meal, which contains about 12 percent protein and 50-55 percent fiber, has been found to be unsuitable for cattle feed.

Passion fruit has some medicinal properties. In fact, there is a revival of interest in the pharmaceutical industry, especially in Europe. In herbal medicine, the plant and leaves are used for a liquid extract which is antispasmodic, sedative and narcotic. It is prescribed for neuralgic pains, debility nervous headache, hysteria, spasms and convulsions. There are some reports that infusion of powdered flower buds are prescribed for bronchitis, as a wound wash, and to expel worms.

Passion fruits are propagated from seeds. Before you plant the seeds, remove the aril (fleshy attachment) attached to them, as it inhibits germination. You may want to dry the seeds first as it is easier to remove all membranes and arils at that point. If pulp is left on the seed, the seed may mould instead of germinate.

Plant the cleaned seeds and cover with soil to twice their thickness. Cover the seed bed with some boughs to increase humidity. Or, grow them in pots which can be covered. In this case wait until the plants are about 10 centimeters tall before planting them in their permanent spots. For the first two weeks after transplanting, water the seedlings frequently.