The Tropical Fruit Curuba: Its Nutrition and Culinary Uses
Curuba, (Passiflora mollissima) also known as banana passion fruit, is part of the Passiflora family of plants, of which there are over 100 species with numerous subgenera. Although at least 60 of the Passiflora species bear edible fruits, only several are grown as commercial crops. Curuba’s close relative passion fruit is probably the most well known of the Passiflora genus outside of South America.
Curuba is a curious looking fruit. Its elongated, similar to a small English cucumber, but with a fuzzy textured yellow or green skin. Inside, the pulp is similar in appearance to that of passion fruit, although orange or yellow, not purple, with black seeds. The taste of curuba is similar to passion fruit although more concentrated, sweeter and more tart.
Although curuba originates from the Andean Valleys of Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, the largest varieties are found in Colombia, where it grows year round and is sold in most town markets. Up until 200 years ago curuba fruit only grew wild. Today curuba grows as a commercial crop in its native South America and in the last century was introduced to Madras, India, Hawaii and New Zealand. Recently Colombia has begun to export curuba and the frozen pulp variety has been available in the USA for many years. Attempts where made to propagate the fruit in Florida, but curuba does not grow successfully below 4000 ft. In California it is grown as an ornamental only.
Curuba and its Nutrition: like passion fruit curuba is a good source of fiber; primarily in the seeds . The fruit is also high in phosphorous, niacin, calcium, iron and contains sodium. Curuba is high in vitamin C and contains vitamin A or beta-carotene.
Curuba is one of the best sources of the Proanthocyanidins. These are powerful antioxidants considered equally as beneficial as resveratrol. Proanthocyanidins help protect our bodies against the oxidative damage caused by pollution and smoking which form free-radicals and cause chronic diseases. Curuba fruit is a good source of catechin, a type of polyphenol antioxidant found in the chemical compounds of plants. Other foods that contain polyphenols are blackberries, cranberries and grapes.
Curuba’s Culinary Uses and Storing: the aromatic curuba fruit is ripe when the skin turns yellow or red, depending on the genus, and the skin is slightly shriveled. The fruit is green when unripe, unless it is a variety known as curuba quiteña which is dark green when ripe. Once ripened it will keep for about five days at room temperature. It shouldn’t be refrigerated.
In Colombia by far the most popular way to prepare curubu is to strain the pulp and blend it with milk and sugar. The drink is known as ‘sorbete de curuba.’ Adding sugar helps to balance curuba’s tartness. Curuba juice is also combined with aguardiente and sugar to make an alcoholic drink and there is a curuba wine.
The fruit is used to flavor meringues, cakes, fruit sauces and gelatin desserts such as 'esponjada de curuba'. Another popular treat in Colombia is curuba ice cream. Because of curuba’s high pectin content it is also used to make fruit preserves. It can be used in fruit salads, crepes, yogurt; in fact, anywhere that passion fruit is used.
Images from commons.wikimedia.com and flickr.com with creative commons licence.