Citrus of the north: Maypop

There are scarce few plants in this cold north that offer the sour snap of lemons. I was surprised to find this electrifying flavor the other day in Maypop.

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Maypop (Passiflora incarnata) is the sliver of the passion fruit family able to withstand northern frosts and freezes -to a degree. Many of my attempts establishing maypop in Mortal Tree have failed. But my neighbor, who has a much more protected yard, finally had success.*

She got a white flowered variant pictured above of maypop ‘Bill’s Delight’ from Companion Plants three years ago. She planted it in a warm, but shady position, on a terrace. Morning sun hits it much of the growing season; evening sun hits it pretty much all the growing season. Pine and beech trees are directly to the south, blocking out midday sun.

Although this situation isn’t ideal, the maypop has rambled over everything else in the bed with happy vines, and underground runners. It has spread out two feet from the original point of planting, mostly in one direction where we dumped a pile of very nice compost over the soil. Perhaps the plant is just sensibly getting what’s good.

In its first year, it just grew vines; last year it bloomed late; this year it grew, bloomed early, and has ripened cadres of fruit.

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I was rather unimpressed with these fruits earlier in about July. They were just hollow balls with small strips of white fuzz. She thought they smelled like movie theater popcorn. I just thought they smelled generally green and inedible.

A few months later, now in October, she mentioned she had opened another, and they were full of white fr lining the inside. Next time I was over I picked some, and found they indeed were much heavier, and that the insides were full of opaque, white little balls of juiciness.

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She had told me they tasted like lemon to her, and on that point I totally agree.

I can’t say the flavor is as pungent and powerful as lemon, but it is close. I stuck the insides of two pods in a blender with a cup of water, gave it a whir.  The resulting liquid I strained to get the seed chunks out, and added a little more water. The result -without any flavoring or sweetener -had a fruity hint, and slight creaminess I have never found in lemon juice. Everyone I had try it said it didn’t need sweetener. I think this was more due to the mildness of the flavors overall than the presence of sweet. In order for most palates to really enjoy it, a little flavoring would help.

But this was watered down. Straight fruity juice from around the seed was prominently sour in comparison; perhaps just use more fruit in less water.

There is a house far down the road from me that has also had success growing maypop -the common type with lavender colored flowers. So I will keep pressing on to get some of these in Mortal Tree. Until then, my neighbor has an abundant supply she is more than willing to share, and I am more than willing to play with. I’ll update with any developments.

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*For those who have requested I write a post about her wonderful yard, it’s on the way.

8 comments

  1. Awesome! We’ve got the purple P. incarnata growing all over the farm. I’m going to try to train them to grow up the elderberries. Your comments on the flavors inspire me to try my hand at blending the pulp and straining the seeds to give it a taste. Thanks!

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    1. Interesting. I can easily see from how happy it is at my neighbor’s now that when you’ve got it, you’ve got it. Looking forward to what you can make of the flavor -and if it’s different in the lavender variety? Thank you!

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  2. I have been trying to establish maypops in my yard for several years. None of them ever made it through the winter, I think because our winter is highly changeable with no moisture.
    This year, for the first time, a maypop planted last year is coming up again. It’s in my deep-mulch area and when I planted it last spring, I surrounded it with old concrete pavers that I had no other use for. Maybe the pavers moderated our dizzying temperature changes enough for survival. Or maybe plants just like to keep us guessing.
    Incidentally, in addition to the fruit, which I liked a lot as a child, I like to snip leaves to make a tea that I use for insomnia. But my main interest is in the fruit, which I want as a tart note in winemaking.

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    1. Congrats! I would credit the rocks in your success. So many plants just love the stable temperature and moisture rocks provide.

      I had always heard of the flowers for insomnia. If the leaves work too, all the more medicinal material. I wonder what kind of medicinal value the fruits might add to your wine? May have to try that myself.

      At any rate, vey happy to hear this wonderful update, Heather.

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      1. The leaves are a very good help for insomnia, about one snipped fresh leaf per cup steeped and removed, and in fact I think they were a Commission E drug in Germany for a while for that purpose. As a point of interest, I am very careful about ever mentioning use of an herb for any symptoms, because I will never forget the time I once commented on somebody’s blog about the use of a snipped maypop leaf in tea for insomnia and was suddenly diluted with angry replies saying “passionflowers are HALLUCINOGENIC!!!”. They are no such thing. I didn’t find any reports in toxicology databases about the common maypop, and I have used them for many years on nights when I can’t sleep without anything remotely interesting ever happening 😉. Amazing, the ideas that people get hold of.

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        1. Actually, the herbal from which I learned the flowers of may pop treat insomnia recommended them as an additive in valerian tincture. Valerian is known to induce nightmares in some cases. Maypop -according to this herbal -gets rid of that side effect. So where someone gets the idea maypop is hallucinogenic I have no idea. You’re certainly welcome to mention herbal medicine on my blog.

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