Passiflora edulis is a plant of the genus Passiflora, family of Passifloraceae, but is also known by the Portuguese name maracuja. The fruit of the plant, the maracuja or passion fruit, is a berry characterized by a hard zest, a very soft pulp rich in seeds and by a very intense scent that makes the passion fruit an ideal ingredient for the preparation of juices and ice creams. There are many types of passion fruit but the two main varieties are the purple passion fruit, or passiflora edulis, with a purple skin, and the yellow passion fruit, or passiflora edulis flavicarpa, with the yellow skin as the name suggests.
Passion fruit, properties
Passion fruit contains carbohydrates, but also mineral salts such as potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc, calcium, iron and selenium, and vitamins such as A, group B, C, very important to support the immune system. Not only that, thanks to the beta carotene and polyphenols present, maracuja also has important antioxidant properties for the health of the cardiovascular system and vision and against free radicals, aging processes and chronic inflammations, which, in the long run, may weaken the immune system. In particular, one of the polyphenols contained in the passion fruit is quercetin, a substance that has shown antiviral properties with a beneficial effect especially on the health of the respiratory tract (Somerville et al, Adv Nutr, 2016). A 2016 study, reported in the Food chemistry magazine and performed by a group of French researchers, pointed out that, among various tropical fruits such as mango, papaya, pineapple, banana and lychee, passion fruit contains the greatest amount of polyphenols! Thanks to the fiber present, the fruit improves intestinal function by fighting constipation and helps to keep blood sugar levels under control.
Passion fruit, a few words on the seeds
Not only the pulp of the fruit is eaten, but also the seeds, big and crunchy. Well, the maracuja seeds contain a high amount of piceatannol, a polyphenol with an antioxidant action able to improve insulin sensitivity. In addition to this, this substance also has a relaxing action on blood vessels with a beneficial effect on blood pressure, promotes the synthesis of collagen, improves the degree of hydration of the tissues and protects the skin from damage caused by UVB rays (Kitada et al, Nutrients , 2017).
Passion fruit and extracts of its peel
Finally, extracts of the fruit peel have also been the subject of scientific studies in recent years. As proven by the study reported in the journal Nutritional research in 2010 and performed by a group of Iranian scientists in collaboration with Western Ontario and McMaster Universities (WOMAC), oral intake for two months of passion fruit peel extract is able to reduce pain and stiffness related to osteoarthritis. Research is still in its early stages and more work remains to be done but certainly this opens the way to a possible use of the natural remedy instead of the anti-inflammatory drugs currently used to treat osteoarthritis and related symptoms. The study is referring to supplements prepared by processing passion fruit peel. In fact, the peel of the fruit in its pure form cannot be eaten.
Passion fruit, how to buy it
Maracuja is nowadays easily purchased in supermarkets and fruit and vegetable shops. The skin of the maracuja, when the fruit is ripe, is very wrinkled. Maybe it won't be nice to see but it's really good to taste! Instead, when the peel is still smooth, the fruit has not reached maturity and the flavor may be too acidulous.
Passion fruit, how to eat
Passion fruit is also simple to eat. It is sufficient to cut the fruit in half and with a teaspoon extract the pulp and seeds. Do not forget also the exotic perfume that emanates from the freshly cut fruit, which immediately puts you in a good mood!
Passion fruit, warnings
The intake of maracuja is generally safe apart from some cases of fruit allergy, pay particular attention if you are allergic to latex. The peel is generally not considered edible, except for supplements and extracts.