Do you have the pas­sion?

Passionfruit is a sub­trop­i­cal fruit which thrives on warmth and needs a shel­tered frost­free en­vi­ron­ment for suc­cess­ful pro­duc­tion. The sea­son can last from Christ­mas through to late Septem­ber, which is an ex­tremely long har­vest pe­riod.

The Orchardist - - Passion Fruit - By De­nis Landow

Passionfruit nor­mally ap­pear in the su­per­mar­kets from late Jan­uary. Har­vests peak in April and there are lim­ited sup­plies un­til at least July. Some ex­porters will still be go­ing un­til Septem­ber.

The cen­tre of passionfruit pro­duc­tion was ini­tially in Opotiki, in the East­ern Bay of Plenty. To­day most of the coun­try’s passionfruit or­chards are lo­cated in Katikati, west of Tau­ranga. Cur­rently there are 65 mem­bers, from di­verse ar­eas such as Kerik­eri and Whangarei in North­land, South Auck­land, and down in the Bay of Plenty’s dis­tricts of Opotiki, Kaw­erau and Katikati. There are Taranaki grow­ers, along with oth­ers in pock­ets of the South Is­land’s Nel­son and Karamea lo­ca­tions.

The New Zealand Passionfruit Grow­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion has been es­tab­lished for more than 20 years, and in this time, a range of grow­ers have come and gone.

Since the 1980's mem­ber­ship num­bers have re­mained steady as old grow­ers left the small cir­cle and re­placed by new en­thu­si­asts. It is hoped by the as­so­ci­a­tion that more grow­ers will plant com­mer­cial-sized crops be­cause the de­mand and prices gained from ex­ports are healthy and look to im­prove over the fore­see­able fu­ture.

New Zealand’s first com­mer­cial plant­ings of pur­ple passionfruit were lo­cated at Kerik­eri in 1927, and a few years later more were es­tab­lished in Auck­land and Tau­ranga. Un­til the mid-1930s, suc­cess­ful cul­ti­va­tion of passionfruit was rel­a­tively easy but

since then, the in­ci­dence of dis­ease has made com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion more dif­fi­cult, re­sult­ing in re­duced yields and in­creased costs.

Pur­ple Passionfruit ( Pas­si­flora edulis) is the only va­ri­ety grown com­mer­cially in New Zealand at present. Vari­ants of the pur­ple passionfruit from Aus­tralia have been tried and although they colour up well in the heat of sum­mer, the early and late fruit tend to have a lot of green­ing, which makes them un­ac­cept­able in the mar­ket place.

FRUIT FLY FREE

New Zealand passionfruit grow­ers ben­e­fit be­cause the coun­try is free of fruit fly, and this al­lows our fruit ac­cess to most world mar­kets. The as­so­ci­a­tion says that few, if any, in­sec­ti­cides are used on New Zealand passionfruit so buy­ers can be as­sured of zero chem­i­cal residues at the point of sale.

Be­cause the fruit drops to the ground when ripe, this eas­ily en­sures con­sis­tent qual­ity and sweet­ness. Un­like most other fruit where time af­fects taste, New Zealand passionfruit ac­tu­ally im­proves with age and the wrin­kled ap­pear­ance is a good sign- hence the say­ing ‘sweeter when wrin­kled’.

The fruit is har­vested and packed in sin­gle-layer trays and reaches world mar­kets within 24-48 hours of leav­ing the or­chard. Each in­di­vid­ual fruit is la­belled with a PLU sticker and trays are wrapped in a plas­tic liner to stop de­hy­dra­tion.

Depend­ing on size, there can be between 28 and 42 fruit per tray. Ex­port fruit has a fi­nal au­dit check by Agri­qual­ity staff for qual­ity and pests be­fore be­ing air freighted. Passionfruit can be kept up to four weeks if stored in a re­frig­er­a­tor at the cor­rect tem­per­a­ture.

AMA­ZON AN­CES­TRY

The pur­ple passionfruit, Pas­si­flora edulis, is a na­tive of the Ama­zon rain­for­est mar­gins of Brazil, Paraguay and north­ern Ar­gentina. It adapted to cooler sub-trop­ics and high­alti­tude trop­i­cal cli­mates.

There are many other pas­si­flora species spread widely around the globe. In­ter­est­ingly, about 50 species are na­tive

to New Zealand, Aus­tralia, the Pa­cific and South East Asia.

Passionfruit ac­quired its name from Spanish mis­sion­ar­ies who thought parts of the plant's flower re­sem­bled dif­fer­ent re­li­gious sym­bols. The Je­suit mis­sion­ar­ies who ac­com­pa­nied the Con­quis­ta­dors to South Amer­ica saw in its strik­ing flower a means of il­lus­trat­ing the Cru­ci­fix­ion; the 10 petals and sepals rep­re­sented the apos­tles, the crown of thorns was seen in the fil­a­ments, the five an­thers rep­re­sent the five wounds, the three stig­mas were al­lied with the nails used to pierce the hands and feet of Je­sus and the vine's ten­drils were equated with the whips.

AVAIL­ABIL­ITY

The avail­abil­ity of New Zealand grown passionfruit de­pends upon the lo­ca­tion and prun­ing times. In cer­tain ar­eas grow­ers prune for very early or very late crops, in or­der to pro­duce fruit out­side the nor­mal grow­ing sea­son. This is all im­por­tant to fetch bet­ter mar­ket prices.

Passionfruit pro­duces a con­tin­u­ous crop, with flow­er­ing and fruit set hap­pen­ing at the same time as the first fruit ripens. This con­tin­ual flow­er­ing ex­tends the har­vest sea­son of passionfruit over sev­eral months, com­menc­ing in late Jan­uary and go­ing through to Septem­ber. Frosts may re­duce the crop dur­ing the mid­dle of the year. Prun­ing ter­mi­nates the ripen­ing sea­son in early spring.

HORT OR HOBBY?

The as­so­ci­a­tion’s grow­ers be­lieve there are key fac­tors that must care­fully con­sid­ered by would-be grow­ers.

What are your real ob­jec­tives? Are you look­ing for a hobby, or a hor­ti­cul­tural in­ter­est which pro­vides an in­come but lit­tle or no in­vest­ment re­turn, or a se­ri­ous com­mer­cial in­vest­ment?

Rea­son­ably, one per­son can look af­ter 400 plants on a full-time ba­sis, says the as­so­ci­a­tion. A lone-grower must have the time avail­able to put into a suc­cess­ful crop. Reg­u­lar tasks in­clude spray­ing dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son, trail­ing the vines, har­vest­ing the fruit from the ground, clean­ing and grad­ing the fruit for sale, whether it be for ex­port or the lo­cal mar­ket. A suc­cess­ful passionfruit crop re­quires at­ten­tion ev­ery day dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son – not just at week­ends.

KEY SUC­CESS FAC­TORS

The as­so­ci­a­tion is keen to en­sure all fruit sup­plied to over­seas and New Zealand mar­kets is of the high­est stan­dard and has de­vel­oped ac­cept­able qual­ity guide­lines in a vis­ual for­mat, which can see seen on its web­site, www.passionfruit.org.nz.

The fol­low­ing key suc­cess fac­tors must be met for passionfruit grow­ing to be vi­able: • the pro­posed site should ide­ally be

north fac­ing and frost free • passionfruit should be planted in

rows run­ning north to south • free drain­ing soil - passionfruit do

not like ‘wet feet’ • ad­e­quate shel­ter needs to be es­tab­lished be­fore plant­ing to pro­tect from wind • a soil test will de­ter­mine the nu­tri­ents re­quired for ideal grow­ing con­di­tions

ad­e­quate rain­fall or ac­cess to ir­ri­ga­tion dur­ing the grow­ing pe­riod and dry spells

ef­fec­tive plant and ma­chin­ery for spray­ing, mow­ing and other or­chard ac­tiv­i­ties

a suit­able hy­gienic area avail­able to clean, grade and pack fruit

• The great­est re­turns are re­ceived from ex­port­ing passionfruit. There are many New Zealand and over­seas re­quire­ments re­lat­ing to ex­port­ing sub­trop­i­cal fruit which grow­ers must com­ply with, for ex­am­ple, grower regis­tra­tion, spray cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, and so on.

Passionfruit vines re­quire a warm, moist en­vi­ron­ment to thrive. Com­mer­cial passionfruit pro­duc­tion is only pos­si­ble in rel­a­tively frost free lo­ca­tions; how­ever, vines will tol­er­ate a slight frost of mi­nus 1-2 °C for short pe­ri­ods. More se­vere frosts will kill the grow­ing shoots, and cause se­vere fruit dam­age and fruit drop.

An or­chard should ide­ally be es­tab­lished in a deep, well drained sandy loam. Poorly drained soils cause the vines to be­come sus­cep­ti­ble to root dis­ease which can rapidly kill the plants. Where nat­u­ral drainage is in­ad­e­quate a suit­able drainage sys­tem should be in­stalled be­fore plant­ing.

Clock­wise from top left:

2017-18 Com­mit­tee: From back left: Ter­ence McHardy (Athen­ree) Gavin Stil­well (Opotiki), An­drea Lee (Kaw­erau) and Phil Cur­sons (New Ply­mouth). Front row, Tony Wright (Katikati) and Re­bekah Vlaan­deren (Oropi, Tau­ranga). Ab­sent is Isa Dyet (Tau­ranga).

Bay of Plenty grow­ers made the most of hav­ing the AGM in their area. From left, Trish and Lance Chipchase (Katikati), An­drea Lee (Kaw­erau), and Malcolm and Carolyn Muir (Tikitere, Ro­torua).

Cathy Tang (Te Puke) en­joy­ing meet­ing other grow­ers at the an­nual gath­er­ing.

Catch­ing up over a drink. From left, War­wick Lee (Kaw­erau) and Gavin Stil­well (Opotiki).

From left, Dun­can Ruther­ford (Tau­ranga), Russell Faulkner (Tau­ranga), Stephen McIsaac (Katikati), and Phil Cur­sons (New Ply­mouth).

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