The passion fruit is native to South America, especially Brazil, and must have travelled to India through trade routes. In India, passion fruits (both variants purple as well as the larger yellow cousin) grow majorly in tropical and sub-tropical areas of Niligiris, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, and of course Sikkim. While the yellow variant also known as Granadilla, is the one growing in the southern reaches of India, the smaller, sweeter, and more fragrant purple variant grows in the colder regions and in Sikkim. It is called galandar in Nepali and has been a fruit of choice among the exotic food of Sikkim.
The yellow passion fruit variant also called Granadilla
The fruit grows on hardy perennial vines that sprout over early spring. It produces dark green tri-angulated leaves. During April-May, it produces beautiful purple-based flowers at each node that look like an orchid. The flower soon gives way to the much sought after fruit.
The beautiful flower of the passion fruit in full bloom
The passion fruit starts off as a bottle-green to light green berry (yes, believe it or not, the passion fruit belongs to the berry family) and takes on a lovely deep purple hue as it matures. Some variants even have tiny white speckles on them.
The purple passion fruit or galandar (both raw and ripe) on the vine
The fruit has an ovid shape and grows up to 3 inches in diameter. The skin/ rind is leathery to feel, fairly thin and can be easily torn apart using the thumb and fore-fingers on either side when the fruit is mature. Passion fruit or galandar is also touted to be a moderate to rich source of vitamin A, C, B2, B6, riboflavin, carotene, potassium, and also said to possess anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. Its low glycemic index makes it a choice fruit for diabetic patients too.
Passion fruits are mostly harvested around the end of summer. A ripe passion fruit has a very shiny deep purple skin which gives in to touch and has a fruity aroma when smelled. The most interesting and also the edible part of the fruit is exposed on cutting the fruit into half horizontally. The inside of the skin is lined with white pith and holds innumerable goey sacs of yellow juice with a blackish seed inside each one of them.
A cut-open passion fruit with its pulp
On squeezing the pulp, the sacs burst oozing out a floral, sweet-tart acidic juice with a typical tropical taste that is very refreshing on the palate. It has an astringent quality cleansing the palate and hence makes for an excellent appetizer.
When in season, locals in Sikkim and Nepal consume passion fruits on their own. When it is past its prime, the local preserving company ‘Sikkim- Supreme’ uses this exotic fruit to turn it into the sought after squash, locally referred to as gaandar ko juice, one of the iconic souvenirs among the food of Sikkim that people take back with them. This is also the most common welcome drink given to tourists at hotel receptions. When travelling to Sikkim in June-July, be sure to check out Lal Bazaar or the new organic outlets for galandar in its fresh form. If not, you can always pick up a bottle of squash to taste this unique food of Sikkim.
Nowadays, people have also started using the fruit pulp in creating desserts and the latest attraction is in the form of gourmet ice-creams made by a local vendor. Do not forget to reach out to our local experts on your trip here to get recommendation on hot spots for things to buy and things to do when in Sikkim.
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