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A Tropical Taste of Hawaii: Yellow Passion Fruit Liliko'i

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The author lives in a quiet rural community in lower Puna on the Big Island. He's an avid gardener, traveler, and photographer.

People in Hawaii are passionate about liliko'i.

People in Hawaii are passionate about 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.

Unripe fruits hang tightly on the vines.

Unripe fruits hang tightly on the vines.

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.

Liliko'i fruits can be either round or oval.

Liliko'i fruits can be either round or oval.

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).

No need for a spoon—you can slurp the juicy pulp right out of its rind!

No need for a spoon—you can slurp the juicy pulp right out of its rind!

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.

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.

Clockwise from left: Refreshing liliko'i lemonade; chocolate liliko'i mousse cake; and liliko'i coconut haupia pudding.

Clockwise from left: Refreshing liliko'i lemonade; chocolate liliko'i mousse cake; and liliko'i coconut haupia pudding.

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!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 cups of liliko’i pulp (about 8–10 fruits)
  • A pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Add sugar and water to a small saucepan.
  2. Boil on high heat for 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Add the liliko’i pulp and salt, and stir for 1 minute on low heat.
  4. Turn off the heat, and let the mixture cool completely (uncovered).
  5. Use a sieve to strain the mixture and discard the seeds.
  6. Store syrup in a jar and keep in the refrigerator.
Liliko'i shave ice is an all-time favorite treat for kids in Hawaii.

Liliko'i shave ice is an all-time favorite treat for kids in Hawaii.

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.

© 2019 Viet Doan

Comments

Viet Doan (author) from Big Island, Hawaii on October 30, 2019:

Aloha Tory! I hope you get to taste this wonderful fruit in the near future. It's quite addictive once you tried it! So very glad you enjoy the article.

Tery Peta from Bulgaria on October 30, 2019:

I love your article, very informative! Now I am very curious about trying yellow passion fruit.

Viet Doan (author) from Big Island, Hawaii on October 26, 2019:

Aloha Linda! So glad you enjoy the article. I'm convinced that those liliko'i tendrils have "eyes"! They can see and quickly reach out to grab, hold on to whatever close by. Like the tentacles of an octopus!!!

Viet Doan (author) from Big Island, Hawaii on October 26, 2019:

Aloha Liz! As always, I'm grateful for your comments. Glad you like the recipe ideas. I love passionflower tea, it helps me tremendously with jetlag and sleeplessness whenever I travel.

Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on October 26, 2019:

I love fruit.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 26, 2019:

This sounds like a delicious fruit. Its flower is very attractive. I appreciate the warning about its fast growth. I don't think my pets would like being covered by the plant!

Liz Westwood from UK on October 25, 2019:

This is a wide-ranging and very interesting article. I have learnt a lot from it and I especially appreciated the recipe ideas and the top class photos.