A decade ago, my friend moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles with her husband. After landing at LAX, they headed straight to Gjelina, a Venice restaurant that epitomizes a certain Southern California lifestyle: seasonal, wood-fired cooking, and a sun-dappled patio near the beach. They had a long, exquisite lunch and a passion fruit fell from the vine above their table, landing in front of them. The waiter appeared and served each of them with a piece of the fruit, creating an unforgettable moment for them.
About fifteen years ago, I first tried fresh passion fruit in Brazil, and it has captured both my appetite and imagination since. The fruit is mysterious on the outside and, when it falls off the vine, looks like it was laid by a dragon due to its appearance. The inside holds a unique and otherworldly cluster of small black seeds in sunset-colored pulp, surrounded by fragrant golden juice. The flavor is intoxicating and citrus-adjacent, making it my single favorite.
After my trip to Brazil, I struggled to find fresh passion fruit in New York, and when I did, it was often very expensive. Then, during the pandemic, I discovered a company called Rincon Tropics in California that would ship passion fruit across the country at an affordable price. This led me to order a large box that arrived filled with fragrant purple globes.
I recently visited the ranch of Nick Brown, a sixth-generation farmer who grows passion fruit. He noticed the fruit’s gradual infiltration into the broader American palate and began distributing it to consumers and restaurants, shipping about a thousand pounds of passion fruit a week. As we stood by a hedge of vines, he picked up fallen fruit and served them to me, creating an idyllic moment in the sunny California landscape.