Passionfruit treats for all

Three cheers for passionfruit, says Ruth Ablett upon discovering how easy they are to grow in New Zealand.Ruth Ablett

When I first moved from Canada to Waikato, I was blown away by the sheer variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts that grow here. I had never even seen a macadamia tree or an orange tree. (True story!)

Imagine my delight when I learned that the climate here is good for growing passionfruit! One of my all-time favourite flavours, the yellow pulp lends its beautifully tart and tangy flavour to all sorts of desserts, and even some sauces to compliment savoury dishes. It’s a real treat, and I was so excited to grow my very own passionfruit.

One of the first things I did in the garden at our first house (well, after eating an orange right off the tree) was to plant a passionfruit vine. However, after a year, it hadn’t grown at all. I pulled it up, thinking it was never going to grow. It turns out that passionfruit are heavy feeders and also require lots of well-draining soil. They spend the first year establishing a shallow but extensive root system before expanding their creeping vines and glossy leaves. But after it’s established in a good place, they are quite easy and very prolific.

PassionfruitSince my first failure, I have since learned to feed my passionfruit vine regularly with blended compost and worm tea. The vine also requires support so it can climb – all over the place. Some passionfruit vines are happy climbing a fence, but some are happy even in the partial shade of a tree. Against a building on a sunny side also works, as this might help with warding off frost and wind. They also require regular watering, especially during the hottest days in the summer – best done in the morning or evening.

The vines generally last about five years, I’ve been told, and given how prolific my current 18-month old vine is, that’s a lot of passionfruit. When the fruit changes colour to purple or yellow (depending on the variety), it’s ready! The fruit are sweetest when slightly wrinkled. Cut each in half, scoop out the pulp, and enjoy the fruits of your labour. And then you can make this absolutely divine Passionfruit Bavarois. It’s vegan, gluten-free, and is well worth the effort.

Passionfruit Bavarois
Makes 6
Enough passionfruit for 1 cup juice (usually around 20)
1 1/4 Tbsp agar flakes (or 3/4 tsp agar powder – available from Asian supermarkets)
3 Tbsp raw sugar
1/2 cup blanched almonds
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla extract / essence
1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup or honey
1/2 cup coconut milk


Passionflowers. Does this look like an alien species, or what?

Passionfruit Agar Glaze
Pulp from 4 passionfruit, with or without seeds
1 tsp raw sugar (or to taste)
1 1/2 tsp agar flakes (or 1/4 tsp powder)

Place almonds in a blender with 1 3/4 cup water and blend well. Strain through cheesecloth (3-4 layers) to make 1 1/2 cups of almond milk.

Put the cornstarch in a small saucepan. Add the vanilla and maple syrup/honey. Slowly add the almond milk, stirring with a whisk or wooden spoon until a thin paste is formed.

Put the saucepan over low heat, and slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly. As soon as it begins to bubble, remove from the heat. Pour into a bowl, allow to cool, and pop in the fridge until cold.

Juice the passionfruit by spooning the pulp into a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl, allowing the juice to drip into the bowl. Squeeze the cheesecloth to get the last of the juice (should yield about 1c juice).

Put the passionfruit juice in a saucepan with the agar and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Add the sugar and bring to a very gentle simmer, reduce the heat to very low (if you have a heat diffuser, use it). Cook for 10 to 15 minutes for flakes (or until dissolved) or 8 to 10 minutes for powder. Stir frequently to stop the agar sticking to the bottom. Allow to cool slightly.

Spoon the cold almond mixture into a food processor and add the coconut milk. Blend until very smooth. Add the passionfruit mixture and continue to blend until well incorporated. Pour or spoon into six ramekins and place into the fridge for 30-40 min until set.

Make the glaze by combining the passionfruit pulp, raw sugar, agar flakes and 1 fl oz water. Stir together and simmer over a gentle heat so barely a blip breaks the surface for 10-15 minutes for flakes (until they have dissolved) or 8-10 powder. Stir frequently with a whisk or spoon to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom or boiling to hard and reducing.

Allow to cool slightly, then spoon (rather than pour) onto the set passionfruit bavarois. Return to the fridge and set.

Serve, eat, and enjoy “pure ambrosia” (not my words, but I won’t disagree!)

Ruth Ablett is a Canadian who has somehow found herself in Hamilton, New Zealand. She loves gardening, music, sewing and writing software. She can usually be found tapping on something.

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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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