A passionate new fruit


MIAMI -- A new fruit, whose developer hopes can be an alternative to citrus crops in freeze-prone areas of Florida, is thriving in a South Dade County field.

It is the unlikely union of a native American weed called the Maypop and a passion fruit, said Robert Knight, its creator. The horticulturist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture bent over microscopes for years manipulating its chromosomes in an effort to make it grow.

His creation still doesn't have a name, but it does yield a fruit that ranges in color from light green to dark purple, measures about 3 inches around and has a tangy taste that is both sweet and sour. The taste makes it marketable as an ingredient in fruit juices, said Mr. Knight.

"We could have a new alternative crop in the near future," he said. "Perhaps with[in] a year or two."

Even farmers north of Florida can raise the fruit because it can grow back from the barest of branches after a long winter, he said.

The fruit won't be seen on farms or in grocery stores until the USDA is positive of its ability to reproduce and does an in-depth composition analysis on it. Scientists do know the fruit has a lot of natural sugar and acid.

Mr. Knight feels positive.

"In 1980, I was asking myself, 'Wow, what's going to happen?' But now it's a reality, and it's doing well."

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad