BioAlgarrobo, which has its headquarters in the town from where it gets its name, has covered 4,000 square metres of land with greenhousing in order to produce passion fruit commercially. The company sells between six and seven million kilos of fruit and vegetables (avocado, mango, watermelon, melon, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, courgettes and cucumbers, among others) every year. Over two years it has carried out trials on an intensive method of cultivating passion fruit in greenhouses and is getting spectacular results.
The company was encouraged to grow passion fruit due to the great demand for it in European countries says the company's manager, José Carlos Varela. They are also trialling other varieties, particularily the one known as granadilla, which is sweet, orange or yellow-brown in colour, with white markings.
"In the open air they only produce fruit in the summer, whereas in greenhouses they can be harvested all year round. The first year the production was only one kilo of fruit per square metre. This second year we are already at three kilos and we hope to reach five kilos from the third year onwards," explained Varela.
The passion vine is a climbing plant - it needs a trellis for support - and can live between three and five years. "The only drawback is that in the first year it produces few fruits. In a greenhouse it will start to bear fruit in just four months," he says, while explaining that after each harvest the plant is pruned and it produces again.
"The purple variety has an acidic taste and is in great demand in Europe, where it can reach 20 euros per kilo," he added.
According to Varela, the ecological passion fruit produced by BioAlgarrobo complies with the standards required by the most demanding countries, which makes it easier to sell. "Currently, Europe consumes passion fruit from South Africa, Central America and Asia. The Spanish harvest has the advantage that it requires less energy expended in transport compared to other origins, so it is something that is highly valued by distribution chains," he says.
As far as pests are concerned, passion vines are affected by red spider mites and aphids, which causes an ongoing battle for the company with its biological control methods.
The fruit contains a high amount of carbohydrates, so its calorific value is very high. It is a source of provitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. In addition, it contains a high amount of fibre, which improves intestinal transit and reduces the risk of certain illnesses and diseases. Pro-vitamin A or beta-carotene is transformed into vitamin A in the body as needed. This vitamin is essential for vision, good skin, hair, mucous membranes, bones and the proper functioning of the immune system. Vitamin C intervenes in the formation of collagen, bones and teeth and red blood cells, promotes the absorption of iron from food and increases resistance to infection.