A Tropical Taste of Hawaii: Yellow Passion Fruit Liliko'i
Yellow passion fruit is one of the most abundant tropical fruits in Hawaii, and it has a pretty Hawaiian name: liliko’i (pronounced lee-lee-koi). Its botanical name is Passiflora edulis var. flavicarpa.
Liliko’i is not, however, native to Hawaii. The fruit is believed to originate from South America and brought by seafarers to the Hawaiian Islands in the 1920s. It is planted in many local farms and gardens and also grows wild along the roadsides, on electric poles, in abandoned fields, or even deep in the jungle.
The yellow-orange pulp inside the fruit tastes and smells distinctively tropical and is simply irresistible! Liliko’i juice is widely used in making jam, jelly, syrup, and countless delectable sweet treats.
Eating Fresh Liliko'i
Liliko’i is best eaten fresh when the fruit is fully ripe (bright yellow and slightly wrinkled). Cut into the tough outer rind, slice the fruit in half, use a spoon to scoop out the juicy pulp, and enjoy!
Liliko’i has a unique tangy-sweet aroma. Some fruits taste sweeter than others. The small, black seeds are edible and have a crunchy texture.
Unripe fruits are dark green with white specks. As the fruits ripen, they slowly turn yellow then fall off the vine, much to the delight of rats and wild pigs!
The fruit is also packed with many nutrients, including vitamin A, carotenoids, antioxidants, and a high amount both vitamin C and fiber.
Where to Find Fresh Liliko'i in Hawaii
You will see liliko’i for sale at many farmer's markets or roadside fruit stands on the islands. Some local health food stores may have it in their organic fruit section.
Liliko’i is available year-round in Hawaii, but the peak season is usually during the hot summer months (May–October).
Different Varieties of Liliko'i
There are other cultivars of passion fruits growing in Hawaii. Purple liliko’i (P. edulis) is smaller and sweeter than the yellow one. Jamaican liliko’i (P. laurifolia) has bright orange skin and a pleasant floral taste.
How to Grow Liliko'i
You can quickly start liliko’i vines from seeds or cuttings.
- Seeds can be planted directly in the ground. They will germinate within 7–10 days.
- Cuttings can be dipped in rooting hormone powder then planted in containers filled with potting soil. Most cuttings will root in about two weeks.
These vines prefer well-drained soil and a sunny location.
Liliko’i flowers are stunningly beautiful and possess a heady, intoxicating perfume. The flowers attract carpenter bees and nocturnal moths for pollination.
Beware of Fast-Growing Liliko'i
Liliko’i is incredibly fast-growing and will take hold of any nearby plants or objects—rooftops, garden sheds, cars, pets, children, etc.—with its long, tenacious tendrils! The prolific vines have been known to smother an entire tree and eventually kill it by cutting off sunlight and rainwater!
To avoid the nightmarish problem of an overgrown liliko’i, plant it in an isolated location in your garden and provide a trellis or lattice for it to climb on. It can be trained to make an excellent privacy hedge (e.g. to block out your neighbor's messy yard) or an impenetrable green “fence” around your property.
Natural Remedy Qualities
Passionflowers are known for their calming sedative effects and are widely used as herbal supplements (teas, extracts) to reduce stress and anxiety and help with insomnia.
All Things Liliko'i in Hawaii
Besides jams and jellies, there’s a myriad of mouthwatering desserts and snacks made with liliko’i: from cheesecake to shortbread bars, from sorbet to tapioca pudding.
Restaurant chefs use liliko’i as an exotic ingredient in their salad vinaigrettes and grilling marinades. Hotel/beach resort bartenders concoct trendy cocktails like liliko’i martinis and margaritas from liliko’i syrup or liqueur.
How to Make Liliko’i Syrup: A Simple Recipe
You can use this basic syrup as a glaze for your BBQ meat or fish; as a sauce to drizzle on top of your ice cream or waffles; as an ingredient that you fold into buttercream to make cupcake frosting; or as ice cubes to drop into your lemonade pitcher for a zingy tropical twist!
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 cup of water
- 2 cups of liliko’i pulp (about 8–10 fruits)
- A pinch of salt
- Add sugar and water to a small saucepan.
- Boil on high heat for 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Add the liliko’i pulp and salt, and stir for 1 minute on low heat.
- Turn off the heat, and let the mixture cool completely (uncovered).
- Use a sieve to strain the mixture and discard the seeds.
- Store syrup in a jar and keep in the refrigerator.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2019 Viet Doan