Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Passion for Lilikoi

Late last summer a small, viney sprout appeared in the mulch layered at the feet of a long row of areca palms. It looked like it might be a lilkoi sprout. Now you are probably thinking to yourself that an areca palm hedge is not a very good place to grow a lilikoi vine.  And you are probably right. But i love lilikoi so i decided to wait and see what would happen next. I know. Don't say it.


Things started off promisingly. Aren't the flowers lovely? They only last for a day (or night depending on the variety). Sometimes i bring them into the house, wrap the stem with florist's wire, and turn them into pretty little napkin rings. Yes, each napkin ring means one less lilikoi but they grow wildly, abundantly, even accidentally in nearby valleys ; ) Thank goodness because, did i mention? i love lilikoi.



Commercial orchards grow lilikoi on wire trellises, like grapes in a vineyard. I read this somewhere a few years back, i don't remember where. This idea of tidy vines all lined up on wire trellises appeals to me but the vines are not so fussy, happy to twine their way up anything they can get their tendrils on. In pastures, where there are no tall things to climb, the vines wind languorously along the ground, happily weaving in and out of the wild grasses. Strumpet vine, i think to myself affectionately, admiring it's wanton ways because, i think i already said, i love lilikoi.




So my viney sprout has grown now, as you guessed it would,  into an exuberant specimen spanning 20 feet or more.  It is still growing. This is not good for the arecas, sigh. Waiting for the burgeoning fruits to flare yellow and drop to the ground to ripen and wizen,  i decide that i will pull the vine after the first harvest. Love has it's limits, after all, and there are plenty of other lilikoi in the sea.



And then the fruits began to blush. They took on a rosy hue before slipping from the vine and tumbling to the ground. Purple lilikoi! A little sweeter and far less common than the yellow lilikoi, at least on my part of the island. So now, a dilemna. Should it stay or should it go?


Lilikoi season lasts through December or January here so i have a few months to think it over. In the meantime i get to wallow in the harvest. Slice a few lilikoi open, scoop the pulp into a metal sieve or jelly bag and leave it overnight. A quick pulse in the blender beforehand will release more juice or you can press the remaining pulp against the sieve with a rubber spatula to get every last drop of golden goodness.



So just how much do i love lilikoi? Let me count the ways. There's lilikoi curd, lilikoi margaritas, lilikoi salad dressing, lilikoi butter for basting grilled lobster or drizzling over grilled fish, lilikoi bars, lilikoi cheesecake and lilikoi granita just to name a few. 

Do you love lilikoi, too?

15 comments:

A Kitchen Garden in Kihei Maui said...

WOW Julie! Your lilikoi fruit looks soooo ono! I love lilikoi too! Should it grow or should it go? Well...that depends on how big or strong your palms are and if they can take the weight. Lilikoi is invasive but it can coexist well if it's pruned back occassionaly so it doesn't choke everthing around it.

Susan said...

Lilikoi sure does have beautiful flowers and fruit! Your photos show this fact quite nicely!

Linda said...

It looks really yummy! Lilikoi is one of my favorite fruit. Lucky we live Hawaii.

Julie said...

should it stay or should it grow
Love it! Wish i'd thought of it Jane. Well see how things go i guess.

Susan it's been love at first sight for lilikoi and me. I can spot a ripe fruit from 100 yards as i zip by doing 60 mph. Kinda nice to have some right in the backyard for a change!

Welcome Linda! Lilikoi is one of your favorites, too? We are lucky, aren't we?

thyme2garden said...

Hi Julie, I followed your link back from Gardenweb, and I'm so glad I did! I've never heard of lilikoi, but a quick google search taught me that it's also called passion fruit, which I have heard of, and I've had foods that are passion fruit flavored. I just never knew what the flower or fruit looked like, though. I'm so jealous you live in Hawaii and can grow tropical flowers/fruits like that. Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures!

Mr. H. said...

What a fascinating plant and fruit that I have never heard of before...very interesting.

Julie said...

i can't believe there's a plant you don't know about Mr. H! i've learned about so many on your blog. Thanks for stopping by.

Rowena... said...

What fond, fond memories you just brought back for me. My dad loved to harvest lilikoi up in the forests of Kokee, and I remember so vividly the chinaman's hat that we used to strain the seeds, using that thick wooden stick/baton to help extract the juice. You gone and done lilikoi justice with this post!

Julie said...

Rowena i'm sure a lilikoi has never graced my mother's kitchen but she had a chinaman's hat, too! What a great kitchen tool that was. i'm always on the lookout for a better way to juice, maybe i'll be lucky enough to find one for my own kitchen one day.
I have an idea that a food mill might make fine work of things and am hoping to find one to borrow soon.

Pomaika`i said...

Lilikoi juice (store-bought)is so ono! I have never tried to extract the juice - would it maybe separate in a sturdy salad spinner? Alton Brown always harps on having more than one purpose for kitchen appliances. I'm just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

What do you train your lilikoi vine along?

Julie said...

Well my lilikoi mostly trains itself along the top of my areca hedge. It's not a fussy vine and will happily climb whatever support you give it. I have seen it trained to a hog wire fence, across the top of a makeshift pergola, and I have heard that commercial lilikoi farms use a trellis system, similar to a vineyard. Naturalized lilikoi will climb to the top of whatever large shrub or tree it grows next to. Just make sure that whatever you give it is sturdy!

Aubs said...

Hi! I have a question... Did you pollinate your vine yourself? I have a 30 foot vine growing now with new flowers popping up every day! I haven't seen any bees so I've been doing the pollinating myself. But my flowers fall off when they close up :( any ideas?

Julie said...

Heavens no i don't hand pollinate! Far too lazy for that ; ) The big wood bees do most of the work but i see honey bees hanging out some days, as well.

Young plants sometimes have trouble setting fruit but at thirty feet it sounds like your vine s/b old enough. It could be that you need another vine to cross pollinate but most lilikoi are self-fertile so it's unlikely that's the answer.

If the hand pollinating doesn't work you might try propping a shovel up in a nearby corner and dropping dark remarks about the fate of non-performers ; ) Good Luck!

Kevin Kamaile said...

I just transplanted a lilikoi from a old overgrown rock garden that was only about 2 feet tall. I hear it's very tricky to transplant it and it was. The thing is I put it in to bigger pot but when I did that the vines just died I thought it was toast. I left it alone and never moved it at all and left the dead vines wrapped around a ohia tree. I watered it like I do the rest of my new garden and slowly I noticed the dead vine wasn't really totally dead. Small leaves sprout and began to flourish and a new vine came out and followed the old dead vines. It is a tricky plant when starting and it must have been planted over 3 years ago with no room the breathe and too much sun. I thought I would post because the vine itself acts like a leaf too so don't just cut it down if it doesn't do good. :)