7 Facts about Granadilla that you MUST know – Complete Guide

Granadilla is an exotic fruit that you can love or hate, there is no middle ground!

Here you’ll learn everything about this fruit including its characteristics, classification, benefits to the human body, history, cultivation, and by-products.

What is granadilla and what are its characteristics? 

Scientific namePassiflora ligularis
Common nameGranadilla, sweet granadilla, Chinese pomegranate, parcha, guayan, among others.
Place of originSouth America
HabitatTropical and subtropical regions
DistributionCountries in Central and South America, South Africa, Kenya, Australia, Hawaii, among others.
FruitGranadillas.

Characteristics of granadilla

The granadilla is a fruit that belongs to the Passifloraceae plant family, a group characterized by its brightly colored flowers, shape and great visual attractiveness.

Now I’ll describe its botanical characteristics so you know what this food plant looks like.

Granadilla stem

This fruit is characterized by growing on vine-like plants with lianas. They have a climbing growth, that is to say, they need some sort of support to facilitate the harvesting of the fruit.

These characteristics mean that the stem is semi-woody, which is to say that the base is woody, with about 10 cm in diameter; the rest of the plant is herbaceous and green. It not only serves as a support but also stores water.

Granadilla roots 

The roots of this plant are shallow. It has primary roots that grow in the top 30 cm of soil, from which secondary roots can grow up to 50 cm deep, and this root system can grow to a radius of 150 cm.

They have a fibrous texture that allows the absorption of water and other nutrients. Growers should keep this information in mind to avoid damaging the roots during weed control or during the application of various products such as chemical fertilizers.

Granadilla leaves 

The leaves of granadilla are large, 10 to 25 cm long and 10 to 15 cm wide. They are green, smooth and heart-shaped.

Granadilla flowers 

This flower is detached and held from the stem of the plant by a pendulum about 4 cm long. They measure 7 to 10 cm in diameter and their petals are violet.

These flowers open at dawn, starting their opening at 1:30 am and opening completely at 4:00 am. At this time, the pollination process must be done, either by pollinating insects or through the intervention of the gardener, since the flower closes in the evening.

What is the granadilla fruit like? 

The granadillas are attached to the stem of the plant through a pendulum that measures between 6 to 12 cm. They are oval and can have different sizes.

The exterior of the fruit is a hard shell that is green when unripe and yellow with white or brown dots when ripe. The rind has to be broken in order to consume the pulp inside.

The mesocarp is found inside the fruit, which is a kind of white, spongy skin that serves as a protective method.

Finally, the inner pulp of the granadilla is composed of black seeds measuring approximately 3.5 mm, covered by the pulp which in this case is called “aril”; it is transparent and sweet tasting. There is also a small serving of passion fruit juice in the fruit.

Are there different types of granadillas? 

In the book “Botany of tropical crops” the author Jorge León states that the variability of the species Passiflora Ligularis is not known. There are no specifically defined variants, therefore, these are classified according to the following characteristics (Bernal, J. n.d.):

Classification of granadillas by size

Granadillas are classified by size as follows:

ClassificationCharacteristics
LargeThey are considered of this size when they weigh more than 100 grams.
MediumThey weigh between 70 and 100 grams.
SmallThey weigh less than 70 grams.

Classification of granadillas by shape and shell 

Granadillas can have different shapes: round, round-tipped, elongated-ovate and elongated-open. In addition, they also have uneven rinds, which can vary in thickness and hardness. For example, they can be: thick and hard, medium or thin and weak.

Benefits and properties of granadilla 

Nutritional profile of passion fruit 

In this section, you will learn about some of the benefits that this fruit can have on the human body. To begin with, you are going to see a nutritional table of this fruit (USDA, 2019):

Nutritional information of Granadilla 
Serving: 100 grams of granadilla 
InformationQuantity
Water72,9 grams
Energy97 calories
Protein2,2 grams
Total lipids (fats)0,7 grams
Carbohydrates23,4 grams
Fiber10,4 grams
Sugars11,2 grams
Calcium12 milligrams
Iron1,6 milligrams
Magnesium29 milligrams
Phosphorus68 grams
Potassium348 milligrams
Sodium28 milligrams
Zinc0,1 milligrams
Copper0,086 milligrams
Selenium0,6 micrograms
Vitamin C30 milligrams
Thiamine0 milligrams
Riboflavin0,13 milligrams
Niacin1,5 milligrams
Vitamin B-60,1 milligrams
Vitamin A64 micrograms
Folate14 micrograms
Carotene743 micrograms
Cryptoxanthin41 micrograms
Vitamin K0,7 micrograms
Lutein x zeaxanthin0 micrograms

Main properties of granadilla 

Ally in children’s nutrition 

Granadilla is a magnesium-rich food ideal to be consumed by children under one year of age. This mineral is highly important because it promotes the proper functioning of the nervous system and muscles, allows bones and teeth to be strong, and strengthens the immune system.

Stimulation of the thymus gland 

It contains proteins capable of activating the thymus gland in children, but what is this gland? The growth of this organ begins in the first months of gestation of the fetus and ends in adolescence.

One of the fundamental tasks of the thymus gland is to strengthen the immune system. It’s indispensable because it will allow the body to fight bacteria or foreign antigens. It also has other functions such as the stimulation of bone growth and the development of the lymphatic system.

Source of vitamin C 

According to Ocati, a company that markets high-quality fruits and vegetables, “half a cup of granadilla provides 33% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C”.

This vitamin fulfills valuable functions in the body such as the proper production of collagen, the formation of scar tissue for healing wounds, and helps the body absorb iron, among other functions.

Source of potassium 

By consuming 100 grams of granadilla, your body gets 10% of the recommended intake of potassium.

This mineral has many functions in the body; for example, it allows cells to absorb other nutrients, helps the nervous system to function properly, and contributes to muscle contraction and a constant heart rate.

Source of folate 

Half a cup of granadilla can provide 5% of the daily intake of this mineral.

Folate is a type of vitamin B that is naturally present in different foods. It helps the body create red blood cells, preventing anemia and allows the growth of new tissues and cells, promoting the growth of hair and nails, etc.

Source of phosphorus 

A 100-gram serving of granadilla provides 6% of the daily intake of phosphorus.

This mineral makes up 1% of the human body’s weight and its main function is the formation of bones and teeth. It also contributes to the growth and repair of cells and tissues.

Source of iron 

A serving of 100 grams of granadilla provides 5% of the recommended daily intake of iron.

This mineral enables hemoglobins (red blood cell proteins) to transport oxygen to the lungs and throughout the body. Consuming iron-rich foods is important as a low intake will increase the risk of conditions such as anemia.

Other benefits of granadilla 

Other benefits that can be enjoyed from different parts of this plant are:

  • The fruit has diuretic properties and promotes digestive wellness, meaning it can help people who suffer from constipation or have gastric ulcers.
  • Infusions of granadilla leaves act as a sedative in the organism, which can help treat muscle spasms or induce sleep in people who suffer from insomnia.
  • The buds (buds that give plants or trees) are used for the control of intestinal parasites.
  • The leaves of the granadilla can be combined with unsalted butter to soothe the pain of bumps or body injuries.
  • It has flowers with medicinal properties that have been used for hundreds of years as tranquilizers or sedatives.

How is granadilla eaten? 

Generally, people eat the pulp of the granadilla by swallowing the seeds. Granadillas are mainly marketed as whole fruit, but frozen pulp is also marketed in some cases.

In an artisan manner, it is used by people to make homemade products such as:

  • Jams
  • Wines
  • Nectars
  • Juices
  • Ice creams
  • Compotes
  • Arequipes (Milk sweet)
  • Among others

History and origin of granadilla 

Native to the American continent, the American Indians loved to use this fruit as traditional medicine, for example, it was used against yellow fever.

As the Spanish colonizers were not familiar with this fruit, they felt that it had a resemblance to the pomegranate (Punica granatum), a European fruit, so they decided to call this fruit “granadilla”.

The Spanish Catholic missionaries called granadilla flowers “passion flowers”. This was because they have different characteristics similar to the symbols of the Passion of Christ, for example, it has 12 petals as the number of disciples.

Also, part of the flower called “crown of filaments” was compared to the crown of thorns worn by Jesus at his crucifixion. It has 3 stigmas (in charge of the pollination process) that were assimilated as the 3 nails used to nail Christ to the cross, among many other characteristics that led to its name.

For this reason, in 1737 the Swedish scientist Charles Linnaeus decided to name the fruit genus Passiflora.

In 1835, during the Botanical Expedition to the New Kingdom of Granada, José Celestino Mutis included granadilla among the Passiflora species. In 1885, the French botanical researcher Antoine-Laurent de Jussieu also discovered 13 fruit species that included granadilla.

On the other hand, there is little information about the introduction of this species in other countries. It is said that attempts were made to introduce it in California, Italy and Israel, but it was not successful. Nevertheless, there is some data: in 1910 it was recorded for the first time in Hawaii and in the 1930s it was introduced in the Galapagos Islands.  

The industry of granadilla in Colombia 

There is limited information on the global trade of passion fruit, since being an exotic fruit, this industry is smaller compared to other better known worldwide.

In this section, you’ll learn about the passion fruit industry in Colombia, one of the countries that produce more passion fruit species.

Production of granadilla in Colombia

Colombia produces approximately 50.000 tons of granadilla per year. This country has more than 19 thousand hectares dedicated to the cultivation of passifloras species such as gulupa, passion fruit, Curuba, and of course granadilla, among others.

The regions where they are most cultivated are:

  • Antioquia
  • Boyacá
  • Nariño
  • Cauca Valley
  • Tolima
  • Huila
  • Cundinamarca

Export of granadilla in Colombia 

Granadilla and other fruits were the most exported in Colombia in 2019. According to the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture, in 2019 they exported 812,000 tons for a value of 4 million dollars. Below, you can see a table with the main destinations of their exports.

PositionCountryPercentage
1 ºThe Netherlands16,3
2 ºCanada16,2
3 ºFrance14,3
4 ºUnited Arab Emirates8,5
5 ºSpain7,7

Fact:

  • In 2018, Colombia exported passion fruit for the first time to Ukraine, Japan, and Romania.
  • The European Union accounts for 49.6% of passion fruit exports in Colombia.

How is granadilla grown and harvested? 

In order to have good quality granadilla crops, some environmental factors must be taken into account, namely:

Climate 

Granadilla grows in tropical or subtropical areas, and the ideal temperature is 18 to 20 °C or even a moderate temperature between 15 to 18 °C.

Let me explain, higher temperatures than 20 °C promote the increase of pollinating agents such as bees; therefore, the number of pollinated flowers will be higher; however, this will cause the plant to need more water and other nutrients that, in simple words, will reduce the life cycle of the granadilla.

On the other hand, growing this plant in temperatures below 18 °C will slow down its productivity, since the fruit growth will be slow.

Altitude 

The altitude is another factor that affects the crop’s productivity. Ideally, it should be planted in areas between 2,000 and 2,500 meters above sea level. However, the recommended altitude is not less than 1,800 m.a.s.l., since at these altitudes the pests are greater and the fruits grow less.

Rainfall 

Granadillas are 80 to 95% water, and their shape and size are related to the amount of water the plant receives.

Crops are recommended to receive between 2,000 to 2,500 mm of rainfall distributed throughout the year. It should not receive less than 1,800 mm or more than 2,800 mm of rainfall per year.

Humidity 

Granadilla crops must have between 70 to 75% humidity, which will help reduce plant diseases, promote pollination and regulate plant transpiration.

If the percentage of humidity is lower than the above mentioned, the crops will have negative results as:

  • Flower wilting
  • Decreased photosynthesis
  • Plant structures fall down
  • Death of new shoots 
  • Dehydration

Similarly, the percentage should not be higher than recommended because it will increase the presence of diseases that may affect the plant, i.e. more spraying would be needed.

Wind

The passion fruit crops must not be exposed to very strong winds because this can indirectly affect the pollination process and, therefore, its performance.

You see, pollinating agents such as bees tend to mobilize in areas with calm winds, which means that, if this is not met, the plant won’t get adequate pollination for crop productivity.

Soil 

The optimum soil depth for the roots of granadilla to develop properly should be at least 60 cm, even soils that are 20 to 40 cm deep are acceptable, but never less than 20 cm because they are not suitable for the cultivation of this fruit.

Light soil with sandy or clay loam textures is required, as they allow the correct development of the plant’s root system. The soil should have a high content of organic matter and proper drainage, and be loose and with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5 to allow the absorption of all types of nutrients.

Propagation of granadillas 

To propagate granadillas, the following methods can be used:

1. Sexual or by-seed propagation   

This is the most widely used method for propagating this fruit because the material can be obtained easily and the costs are low. In addition, reproduction by seed allows the plants to live longer, develop a strong root system and be vigorous. To sow using this method, the following is done:

  1. Seeds are obtained from fruits that come from the most productive and vigorous plants.
  2. They are cleaned, disinfected, and dried.
  3. Finally, 2 to 3 seeds are sown in 1 kg of soil.

You’ll have to wait two months before they can be transplanted to the cultivation site.

Curious fact:

From a single fruit, up to 240 seeds can be obtained. This means that only 3 fruits with this seed content are enough to sow a whole hectare of granadilla.

2. Asexual or vegetative propagation 

Asexual propagation can be carried out through grafting, although this method requires further research because it enables plants to be chosen that are resistant to pests or diseases.

It can also be done through cuttings, which in fact, is the most used within this category. This is done as follows:

  • Vigorous and healthy 30 to 40-cm-long branches are removed.
  • They are sown vertically at a depth of 4 to 5 cm.
  • After 50 to 60 days they are transplanted.

However, this method is not the preferred one, as the plants grow fragile, have shorter longevity and their root system is weak.

 Gathering and harvesting of granadillas 

Granadillas are harvested once the fruits begin to turn yellow as they ripen. It’s usually done in the morning hours, preferably when it hasn’t rained.

Growers often cut granadilla stems using their fingernails, but with special care so as not to break the rind of the fruit. Harvesting the passion fruit can take 3 to 4 days per hectare and is done every three weeks.

Post-harvest and storage of granadilla 

After harvesting the granadillas, producers carry out these 4 important steps for the commercialization of these fruits:

1. Selection  

After harvesting, the seeds are selected according to their condition; for example, those damaged by transport, pests or diseases, and defects in shape, color or size, among other factors, must be removed.

2. Pre-cooling 

Once sorted, the fruit undergoes a process of pre-cooling with the aim of reducing the internal temperature of the fruit and thus slowing its deterioration.

It can be done through immersion or spraying water at low temperatures, although for granadillas, it is preferred to use air with ventilation tunnels because the natural wax that covers the peel will not be removed in this way.

3. Sorting 

At this stage, granadillas with similar characteristics, such as color and shape, are classified. According to the Colombian Society of Horticultural Sciences, granadillas are classified into the following 3 categories:

CategoryCharacteristics
ExtraSpherical-shaped berries, free of unusual odors and flavors, free of pest and disease attacks, free of foreign matter in the shell. In this case, fruits are allowed to have up to 5% of defects that reduce the quality of the fruits.
IGranadillas with defects or scars are allowed up to 10% of the fruit and differences in the color of the skin are allowed. All other characteristics remain the same as for the extra grade.
IIThe rind may be rough or have different shapes, the color of the fruit may be imperfect and up to 20% of the fruit area is allowed to have scars or defects.

In the case of exports, granadillas belonging to the Extra category are used because they are the best looking and have the least imperfections.

4. Storage 

Before storing the fruits, they must be cleaned and disinfected. Then they are packed in the containers of the company’s preference, usually using cardboard boxes, taking special care to ensure that the granadillas remain in good condition.

Then, to ensure the good condition of the fruits, they are stored in cold rooms or chambers that have around 8 °C and 90% humidity.

Bottom line

If you’re eager to savor this delightful fruit and explore other culinary treasures native to Colombia, why not plan your own unique adventure with bespoke Colombia travel services? Delve into the diverse array of fresh fruits that the land of granadilla has to offer and treat yourself to an unmatched culinary experience.

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