Pump­kins & granadil­las to grow and en­joy

Plant a fast-grow­ing pas­sion fruit vine in au­tumn or spring and en­joy a home-grown trop­i­cal feast (and lots of shade) in sum­mer.

go! Platteland - - FRONT PAGE - TEXT GILDA AND LINDA GAL­VAD

Is there a bet­ter place to spend a lazy late-sum­mer af­ter­noon than in the shade of a granadilla vine? Un­der this cool canopy of shiny green leaves, aro­matic pur­ple balls and, if you’re lucky, the very last in­tri­cate pur­ple-and-white flow­ers of the sea­son, one can sim­ply reach out for a some­what shriv­elled pas­sion bomb to add some trop­i­cal punch to your drink. Frankly, you could sim­ply pick one off the ground, be­cause granadil­las drop when they’re ripe.

Pur­ple Pas­si­flo­raedulis and yel­low Pas­si­flo­raligu­laris, also known as trop­i­cal pas­sion fruit, are both na­tive to South Amer­ica but are now grown all over the world – even in­doors or in heated tun­nels in colder cli­mates. The fruit not only of­fers end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties in the kitchen but is also an ex­cel­lent source of fi­bre and vi­ta­min C, has an­tiox­i­dant prop­er­ties and con­tains polyphe­nols that could help pre­vent car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease.

1 Choose the right spot

The av­er­age life­span of a granadilla is about seven years, but for com­mer­cial pur­poses farm­ers plan on three years be­cause the pro­duc­tiv­ity of the vine de­creases af­ter that.

• SUN & WIND Granadil­las are sub­trop­i­cal plants but pre­fer mod­er­ate tem­per­a­tures through­out the year. A monthly av­er­age of no more than 30°C is per­fect, and tem­per­a­tures should prefer­ably never drop below 5°C. Se­vere frost is a com­plete no-no. A good tip is to plant granadil­las on the cool side of your house if you live in a re­ally hot area and on the warm side in a cooler area. Choose a rel­a­tively shel­tered po­si­tion, as the plants need pro­tec­tion from strong winds.

Here at Plat­te­land we’ve seen how a com­bi­na­tion of heat wave and hot berg wind can kill a well-es­tab­lished granadilla vine in one day.

• SOIL The granadilla has a deep but sur­pris­ingly small root sys­tem (con­sid­er­ing the size of the plant it has to sus­tain), so deep, fer­tile soil with ex­cel­lent drainage, lots of compost and a thick mulch layer are cru­cial. If you have clayey soil, the plant might de­velop a shal­low root sys­tem, and ex­ces­sively wet soil can lead to root rot and other dis­eases.

Pre­pare the soil prop­erly: dig a gen­er­ous hole of 1m x 1m x 1m, and add lime and phos­phates along with well­rot­ted ma­nure and compost to the soil.

• A PLACE TO CLIMB Thanks to rather de­ter­mined ten­drils, a granadilla will climb up and over al­most any­thing and can in­deed smother other plants. Make har­vest­ing time eas­ier by plant­ing a granadilla far from other plants. Make sure you have a sturdy trel­lis about 2m high in place to sup­port the ma­ture plant when it is heavy with fruit. Use ter­mite-re­sis­tant wood.

Train the lead shoot loosely up your trel­lis and re­move the side shoots (not the leaves) in the early stages.

Vines tend to look sad and bare dur­ing win­ter, so it’s a good idea to plant an ev­er­green creeper such as ev­er­green clema­tis, star jas­mine ( Tra­ch­e­losper­mum jas­mi­noides) or Jas­minium an­gu­lare and train it up the same trel­lis.

2 How to plant

The eas­i­est way to a home-grown granadilla har­vest is to buy seedlings at a nurs­ery. Trans­plant them now or in late Au­gust or Septem­ber, when the re­ally cold nights have passed. Pre­pare the soil well and al­low for about 2m be­tween plants.

Granadil­las can be grown from seed and can usu­ally be transplated about three to six months af­ter sow­ing. Just keep in mind that the seeds of many of the hy­brid va­ri­eties of shop-bought fruit won’t grow true to type.

To ob­tain seeds, use ripe, healthy fruit, scoop out the con­tents and wash thor­oughly to sep­a­rate the seeds from the pulp. Let the seeds dry in the shade for at least two days be­fore sow­ing in deep seed trays or plant bags filled with ster­ilised soil.

Many gar­den­ers be­lieve, how­ever, that ger­mi­na­tion is en­hanced if the seeds, along with the pulp, are left to fer­ment in a con­tainer for about three days be­fore wash­ing and dry­ing the seeds and sow­ing them as soon as pos­si­ble.

Fresh seed will take 10 to 20 days to ger­mi­nate. Push a thin stake into the soil next to each seedling to train the plant up the stake, and reg­u­larly re­move side shoots. The seedlings can be trans­planted when they are 30cm to 40cm high.

3 Keep them happy

• WA­TER Like all trop­i­cal plants, granadil­las like hu­mid­ity and need a well-dis­trib­uted av­er­age rain­fall of about 1 200mm per year. If you live in a much drier area you’ll have to sup­ple­ment it with reg­u­lar ir­ri­ga­tion. In par­tic­u­lar, the plants need a lot of wa­ter while fruit are be­ing formed, but make sure the site is free-drain­ing.

Do not over­wa­ter – this could lead to root prob­lems. >

• FEED­ING Compost and a sprin­kling of or­ganic slow-re­lease fer­tiliser twice a year should be more than enough if the soil was prop­erly pre­pared. Avoid over­feed­ing – too much ni­tro­gen will lead to a mass of soft green leaves (which in­sects find ir­re­sistible) and very few fruit.

• PRUN­ING Se­vere prun­ing can lower pro­duc­tion – most vines re­ally only need to be pruned when they be­come un­pro­duc­tive, to stim­u­late new growth and to let in more light and air. The best time for prun­ing is from July to Au­gust. Start by re­mov­ing dead, old or dis­eased parts, then snip off any shoots grow­ing along the ground. Keep your in­stru­ments – and your hands and gloves – clean and dis­ease­free by rins­ing them in wa­ter with 10% bleach added to it.

• PESTS & PROB­LEMS Com­mon pests are stink bugs and tip wilters. The best way to con­trol them is to pick them off by hand – rather la­bo­ri­ous but ef­fec­tive. Also look out for the dis­ease foot rot ( dikvoet), which doesn’t seem like a dis­ease at all but man­i­fests at the base of the stem. The stem thick­ens and cracks at the sur­face of the soil. This al­lows or­gan­isms into the stem, caus­ing it to rot. Over­wa­ter­ing and wa­ter log­ging in­creases the chance of foot rot.

4 It’s har­vest time!

In ideal con­di­tions, your first har­vest should be ready within six to nine months af­ter trans­plant­ing the seedlings. The plants reach their full bear­ing po­ten­tial at about 18 months and will usu­ally de­liver a main crop any time from Novem­ber to midMarch, and a smaller crop in June and July. In Mpumalanga, a third crop is some­times en­joyed from March to May.

You don’t re­ally have to worry about pick­ing the fruit be­cause the ripe ones will drop to the ground – col­lect them as soon as pos­si­ble and keep them in the re­frig­er­a­tor. If you do de­cide to pick them your­self, stick to those with a deep-pur­ple colour. With granadil­las, a wrin­kled skin usu­ally is a good sign, but don’t keep them for too long or they will sim­ply dry out.

Granadil­las are as­so­ci­ated with a host of health ben­e­fits thanks to high con­cen­tra­tions of vi­ta­mins and min­er­als. The fruit are ready to eat from six to nine months af­ter plant­ing, and drop to the ground when they’re ripe.

1 Only a sturdy trel­lis would sup­port a full-grown granadilla vine heavy with fruit. 2 The flower of

Pas­si­flora edulis is hard to beat when it comes to ex­otic looks in the kitchen gar­den. 3 It might seem del­i­cate, but a granadilla ten­dril is re­mark­ably strong. 4 Granadilla plants reach their full bear­ing po­ten­tial at about 18 months.

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