- Sweet Granadilla
The sweet granadilla, also known as grenadia, is an edible plant species with the scientific name Passiflora ligularis. It is part of the Passiflora genus and belongs to the same family as the yellow passion fruit and looks very similar to it. The original native range of the species is the Andes, South American mountain range.
Among Passiflora species, the sweet granadilla can be considered the second most important from an economic point of view. Sweet granadilla has the big advantage of tolerating cool climates, where other species of Passiflora can’t be cultivated at all. Sweet granadilla is popular for its edible fruit but is also a valuable ornamental species, due to the attractive flowers.
The sweet granadilla is very similar to the more common yellow passion fruit but on closer examination some differences become obvious. Outside, the shell is much stronger than the passion fruit one and remains smooth, with no wrinkles when ripe. In addition, the fruit’s tip reaches the stem. The pulp around the seeds has a jelly-like consistency, instead of being orange.
The fruit’s aroma is very similar to the one of passion fruits and the taste is equally sweet. Not only the pulp is edible, but also the black seeds. However, these are usually very hard. The skin color of sweet granadillas is variable, from yellow to orange.
Sweet granadilla is not a tree, but a vigorous species of climbing vine. It starts from a woody base and can match the highest nearby trees in height, climbing using its tendrils. Sweet granadilla forms a shade that will eventually kill its understory. The leaves have a length between 8 and 20 cm, with a width between 6 and 15 cm. They have a broad shape similar to a heart, with a pointy tip. Six glands can be found on the petiole in pairs of 2, with a length of about 1 cm. Paired stipules similar to leaves grow on the axils. These have small teeth, an ovate or oblong shape and around 2.5 cm in length and 1.25 cm in width.
Sweet granadilla flowers are usually found in pairs and have a sweet scent with a musky note. They consist of 3 pointed bracts with an ovate or oblong shape, with small teeth and a size of around 4 cm in length and 2.5 cm in width. The total size of a flower is 10 cm, with a peduncle of 4 cm. The green or white sepals are lanceolate, while the petals have a pinkish hue. The filaments have blue horizontal stripes and grow in two rows.
Sweet granadilla fruits have a diameter between 6 and 7.5 cm, with an elliptic shape. When unripe, the skin is green or purple, with fine dots. As it becomes ripe, the skin turns yellow or orange. The thin rind has a smooth exterior, with a strong but brittle structure. Inside, it is soft and white in color. The jelly-like transparent, mucilaginous pulp is very juicy, with an attractive flavour. It is usually transparent but can also be white, yellow or even orange. The fruit has many small black seeds, with a flat and pitted shape.
Consuming sweet granadilla helps fighting cancer, due to the powerful package of bioactive compounds in its composition. It provides a large dose of antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals and prevent them from damaging tissues. Oxidative damage can mutate cell DNA and lead to tumours. The sweet granadilla fruit has been found to be especially useful against cancers of the lungs or mouth. The active anti-cancer agents are flavonoids, vitamin A and phenols.
The sweet granadilla fruit is rich in essential minerals, in particular magnesium, iron, phosphorous or copper. All of these minerals are needed for a strong bone structure and increase the mineral bone density index. They are required for bone development but can also make existing bones stronger and boost the rate of fracture healing. Increased bone density is especially helpful against osteoporosis. The bones tend to become weaker with age, causing severe inflammation and pain, so any food that can improve their structure is very valuable.
Sweet granadillas are rich in antioxidants active at skin level that can improve its health and look. The most powerful of these are carotene, vitamins A and C, as well as riboflavin. Antioxidants are able to counter dangerous free radicals, which are a by-product of human metabolism. They are considered one of the main causes for skin aging and degeneration. The sweet granadilla fruit is also good for the skin due to its anti-inflammatory effect.
Juice prepared from this fruit is known to have a strong anti-stress effect and one glass is usually enough to relax our nerves. The calming properties are very useful for people who suffer from insomnia or any other kind of sleeping problem. Sweet granadilla acts like a mild sedative and consuming a fruit or drinking its juice before going to bed induces a peaceful sleep. One glass of juice is enough to provide this effect. Eating these fruits can also alleviate a wide range of digestive issues.
The sweet granadilla is good for a healthy heart, due to the high amount of copper and iron. These minerals are especially potent in combination with potassium, which dilates blood vessels. Both iron and copper are key building blocks of red blood cells, so a higher intake boosts their production. With a higher number of red cells and dilated vessels, more blood will reach all parts of the body. This supplies cells with an increased amount of oxygen and nutrients, boosting metabolism and activity. The beneficial effect acts as a general health boost.
The fruit is a major source of beta carotene, a bioactive compound that greatly reduces the risk of arthritis. This is due to the strong anti-inflammatory effect of beta-carotene, since arthritis is a condition that makes joints very swollen and painful.
Sweet granadillas are also rich in vitamin A, which plays many roles in the body but is especially needed for healthy skin and eyes. The effect is even stronger due to the content of flavonoids, which are compounds with a similar effect. Flavonoids are extremely good for eye health, since they counter most of the free radicals that are active in this area. They protect eye tissues from damage, in particular the very vulnerable cornea.
Like many other fruits, the sweet granadilla is rich in vitamin C. In addition, the fruit also provides other compounds that improve immunity, such as cryptoxanthin and carotene. The reason why these substances strengthen immune response is their antioxidant effect. They can neutralize free radicals before any harm is done to tissues, protecting internal organs from damage and preventing early aging, cancer or heart diseases. In addition, vitamin C has a direct effect on immunity by making white blood cells more active. This protects against various infections as well as common conditions like flu.
The complex nutrients provided by this fruit also improve hair health. Our hair needs copper, potassium as well as the vitamins A, B2, B6 and C, all of which are supplied by the sweet granadilla. These increase the flow of blood to the scalp and transport more oxygen in the area. A healthy scalp makes follicles healthier, which in turn strengthens the hair.
The fruit is very rich in potassium and a single serving supply about one quarter of the required daily amount. This mineral plays many roles inside the human body but is especially known for its ability to dilate the walls of blood vessels. As their walls relax, the flow of blood increases and more nutrients reach the tissues. At the same time, cardiovascular health is improved in general because the heart makes less effort to pump blood through the system. Potassium is also one of the minerals involved in the critical balance of fluids. At cell level, this mineral regulates the flow of materials through membranes, which is a very important function. As one of the fruits with the highest content of potassium, including a sweet granadilla in your daily diet can be a very good idea.
The fruit’s juice is beneficial for the digestive system and acts like a diuretic. It prevents reflux for both infants and adults and improves internal healing, a very useful effect for people who suffer from hiatal hernia or various ulcers. Sweet granadilla fruit is also a mild sedative and can reduce spasms. Sweet granadilla has some industrial uses: peels can be consumed by cattle while the flowers are ingredients in some perfumes.
The sweet granadilla fruit is normally consumed raw. Its skin is strong but brittle, it is easy to pierce a hole in it or just cut the fruit in half and extract the pulp with a spoon. The small seeds can be ingested without any problem. The loose pulp can quickly be prepared as a juice, after separating the seeds and blending it with water. It can also be used to make a jelly or marmalade.
Habitat and cultivation
The sweet granadilla is a common species in a vast area that extends from Central Mexico to Central and South America. It can be found in Bolivia and Peru and is a very popular dessert fruit. Sweet granadilla can be found in large quantities in almost any market of the region.
The species is not actually a tropical one; it only grows in subtropical climates. In its original range in the Americas, it can be found as both a wild and a cultivated plant at high elevations between 900 and 2700 m. The required altitude depends on the location and climate, since the vine needs cool temperatures it can be found at over 900 m in Hawaii and over 1000 or even 1200 m in Jamaica. If the altitude is too high, it will still grow and produce flowers but the fruits will not develop. However, it produces fruits even at 2500 m in Colombia and at 1900 m in Hawaii. In places like Florida it only thrives during the winter, since it doesn’t like hot temperatures.
It is a plant well-adapted to its native mountain environment, so it can grow on thin layers of volcanic soils. Sweet granadilla thrives in rainforests at high altitude. In cultivation, it can be propagated using either seeds or cuttings.