Pennsylvania passion fruit

passion fruit flower opening on the vine in the early morning

Whenever possible, I like to visit with the local “old timers” who have been farming and gardening here for years–in some cases, for a lifetime. I always learn something new from them. Sometimes we learn from each other.

As some of the formerly “exotic” fruits and plants become more commonly available, it’s amazing how often someone tells me, “You know, we always had those around when I was growing up, but didn’t know we could eat them.”

For example, this happened with paw paws. “I remember the stink of those trees,” or “We never ate those–the fruit would just fall, get mashed all over the ground, and be crawling with bugs.” (Hipsters everywhere would be crying about this lost foraging opportunity!)

And more recently, the same thing happened with passion fruit. Yes! Passion fruit!

I was getting a few of these fruits ready for breakfast the other day, and my buddy Chuck watched me with a frown. “You can eat those?” he asked. Yes! Passion fruit, I said. He had heard of passion fruit, but didn’t know what they looked like.

And then he tells me that he has a bunch of those all over the ground every year after the vines die down. Vines? What vines?! This guy doesn’t make stuff up, but I was still incredulous. Was he pulling my leg? I couldn’t believe that passion fruit would grow outside of a greenhouse this far north.

Long story short, he was right! It turns out that passion fruit vines were already there on the farm when he bought it thirty years ago. You can’t mistake these vines and flowers for anything else. We still don’t know how they got there. But now I know that they can survive the harsh Pennsylvania winters. (And I try not to think about all the passion fruit Chuck has been throwing on the compost pile for thirty years.)

This spring I bought and planted a couple of vines, and started a few others from seed. You never know what you’ll get when you start from seed–if the fruit was a hybrid, it can resemble either parent. The vines won’t fruit this year, in any case. They may not even flower this year as they take root and establish themselves. But I can’t wait until next year!

passion fruit flower opening on the vine in the early morning
This is a flower on a local vine, just starting to open in the early morning.
Bumblebee on a passion fruit flower on a vine growing in western Pennsylvania
Here is one local guy who seems to appreciate this tropical vine!