Passionfruit and Feijoa: New Zealand’s Aromatic Fruits

New Zealand might be associated with the kiwi, but for my money, there are two that are much more appealing, more exotic even, than the fuzzy fruit.

While both passionfruit and feijoa are not native to New Zealand, they both have adapted well to its climate and developed industries that make the island nation an important producer. Both are moderate climate plants.

What characterize both fruits are their intense aroma and flavor.

In appearance, the feijoa has been likened to a guava, though its similarity extends to flavor as well. It also has a taste like pineapple with a minty finish. When ripe, they’re creamy in the middle where the seeds reside, gritty like a pear in the flesh closer to the skin. The fruit is usually cut in half and the flesh scooped out with a spoon. It isn’t that feijoa is very sweet though it is sweet enough. Instead, the tongue tastes complex flavors, mainly of the tropics and pear, with a distinct floral quality. Both my wife and I recall the extraordinary feijoa juice that was served chilled at the Bathhouse Café (Auckland Museum). We have not been able to find it commercially available anywhere, either in New Zealand or at home.

Passionfruit needs no introduction to Hawaiians, who know it as lilikoi. It flavors many of their dessert items and its syrup is a popular topping on shave ice. On the mainland of the U.S., the fruit is not common, making its appearance mainly in fruit juice blends and frozen fruit juice concentrates. In my opinion, it is a fruit that deserves greater popularity, though its import price is fairly steep. Recently, Uwajimaya in Seattle was selling it for $6.99 each, while my daughter here in Christchurch was able to get a whole kilo (about 15 fruit) for NZ$5. I suspect it can be grown somewhere in California where the climate is not too hot nor too cold. There are the image problems of its grapeseed-sized seeds which are very crunchy though not in the least inedible, and of its thick skin (pericarp) that develops severe wrinkles as it ripens. But when passionfruit is split in half, it fills the air with a very intense perfume and a seed pulp that is floral and exquisitely flavorful, more tart than sweet.

For now, I’ll have to content myself with enjoying their abundance whenever I’m here in New Zealand in late summer to early fall.

Anzac Biscuit, Down Under’s Cookie

A cookie, or biscuit as it’s called in New Zealand, that started out as a practical way for Down Under mothers and wives to send spoilage-resistant cookies to their sons and husbands on the front lines of World War I, is arguably the iconic cookie of New Zealand and Australia.

My first taste of the Anzac biscuit was in a café somewhere outside Wanaka, while on tour with a bus company. Its ingredients of rolled oats, dried coconut, butter, flour, baking soda and sweetened with sugar and golden syrup were revelatory; I’d never had such an unexpectedly crispy cookie, almost as hard as biscotti but denser, be so delicious. Anzac is an acronym for Australia New Zealand Army Corps.

Since that time, I’ve made several purchases of it, entirely in Kiwi supermarkets, packaged in quantity. These were certainly adequate, satisfying mostly the memory of the 2010 bus trip. Then today we came across a bag of Arnott’s Farmbake Golden Crunch cookies, a not-so-coded trade name for Anzac biscuits, at Countdown market. And while there’s no mistaking them for freshly baked, they are the best we’ve had coming right out of a bag.

arnott's anzac biscuits