I’ve been passionate about passionfruit all my life.
As a kid, growing up in a small country town in Western Australia, everyone I knew grew passionfruit – especially the long yellow ‘banana’ passionfruit. These hung off creepers that many people trailed up over the walls of the outside toilet to discreetly camouflage it – yes, it was that long ago!
I must have eaten hundreds of those. For a kid, the soft velvety skin made it so much easier to break into the fruit. Those hard purple passionfruits – much more common – required a knife and possibly adult help to open. And that was a problem, too, as they could then keep tabs on how many you were consuming.
The banana passionfruit (tacsonia) was fun to eat. Peel the skin and you then had a long ‘banana’ of closely packed, sweet, orange-fleshed seeds that broke away from each other cleanly with no juice. You could legitimately spend half an hour savouring one fruit, picking off each individual globule.
Often I didn’t, though, simply eating it monkey-fashion, the peel laid back, gobbling the sensuous sweet flesh.
Years later I found myself in Bali and met the fruit to rival my previous passion.
Like many a romance, it began fairly slowly and inauspiciously. A yellow egg-shaped fruit appeared in the breakfast buffet fruit bowl. Hmmm! A bit spotty, not much to recommend it. Unlike a ripe purple passionfruit, the skin was hard and smooth, not invitingly wrinkled.
It wasn’t much better when I cut it open. Silver grey gooey flesh around black seeds – almost like fish roe.
A cautious sniff. And a taste. This was certainly better!
I put a spoon into the half-shell and the entire glob of flesh came out obediently. No scraping as I was used to with the golden flesh of the purple passions.
And then the taste – fragrant, floral, sweet, tropical. Lychee-sweet, but the texture of passionfruit.
Of course for the rest of my time in Bali, I could not get enough of them. Everywhere, from the hotel breakfast buffet to roadside stalls where they sold for a pittance, I would fill my pockets with them, to savour them in my room as long as they lasted.
Originally I thought the name was Marquesa. It took me months to learn the Balinese name was makisa, pronounced, mah- KEE-za. I now know that the makisa has a more proper Latin name - passiflora ligularis – and that it is said to be native to the Andes. How it became so entrenched in Bali (and only few other places) is a mystery to me.
Sadly this passionfruit is rare in my corner of the world. In Bali, I am told it ripens year round, but even in Jakarta earlier this year, it took a patient hotel employee some time to track some down for me when he heard of my addiction. Thank you, Adeza, at Hotel Mulia Senayan!
Is it just me, or are there other people who plan their trip around which rare or much-covered foods are in season?
My mouth is watering, just mentioning makisas, so I’m scanning the deals on flights to Bali, right now!