PASSION FRUIT

CARE: Keep refrigerated up to one week or freeze for longer storage. Mold on outside of fruit does not affect quality.

NUTRITIONAL VALUE: Passion fruit is low in calories and high in vitamin C.

AVAILABILITY: Year-round

(July 28) No one would guess that within this small, round, brownish red-purple wrinkled casing lies the quintessential taste of the tropics. That’s why it’s essential to educate your customers about passion fruit.

Inside, passion fruit has liquidy, mustard-yellow pulp with a small, edible seed. The fruit has a sweet-sour flavor like a blend of lemon, jasmine and honey, according to www.specialtyproduce.com.

The fruit can be scooped directly from its shell and is most often used to make juice or smoothies, top desserts, ice cream, pudding or fruit salads.

It can be used as a delicious tropical pastry filling, so cross-merchandise with recipes and baking ingredients, says Bob Harrington, co-owner of Specialty Produce, San Diego.

In Central American countries like Costa Rica and Columbia, the varieties of passion fruits go by different names and have different uses, says Ronald Zamora, vice president of Cooseman’s Miami Inc., Miami. The smaller, sweet purple variety is best for eating plain, while the larger, yellower variety is more tart and better for baking or juices. The purple variety grows best in temperate climates and the yellow in tropical or subtropical environments.

Major producers include New Zealand, Central and South America, South Africa, India, Taiwan and Hawaii.

Display passion fruit with other tropicals like persimmons, mangoes, guava, papayas, coconuts and pineapples. At Athabasca Super A, Athabasca, Alberta, the produce staff cross-merchandises tropicals with Produce Partners powdered drink mixes for making punches, juices and smoothies, says Jason Marchuk, produce supervisor and operator.

“If you’re running a tropical theme, bring some plants in with that and build a little hut or use wooden baskets. … Make it colorful and eye-catching,” he says.

Marchuck generally sells passion fruit at $1.99-2.49 a pound and moves about a case a week, he says. Customers who buy passion fruit tend to be families with children or shoppers who are 25-55 years old who have kids or grandkids, he says. Consider doing a kid-themed display or include passion fruit in a kids’ fruit tasting club.

Macey’s in Salt Lake City, one of 10 stores operated by Associated Food Stores Inc., displays passion fruit in a gourmet section with unusual items like tamarillos, kiwano melons and prickly pears, says Brad Mifflin, produce manager. Passion fruit and other specialties have to be promoted in their own way. He says it’s more difficult to sample passion fruit than Asian pears. Since passion fruit is so small and yields so little pulp per fruit, it’s difficult to get fruit out for customers to taste. Try using signs and information cards instead.