The Sertão do São Francisco district is situated in the far north of the state of Bahia, in the northeast of Brazil, a semiarid region dominated by the Caatinga, a unique ecosystem found nowhere else in the world. The passion fruit (Passiflora cincinnata) known also as maracujá do mato grows here. A wild perennial, the fruit can withstand long periods of drought and grows mostly in the so-called fundos de pasto, the common pastureland of traditional communities.
When ripe, it has green skin and white flesh which conceal dozens of tiny seeds. It is extremely fragrant and has a much more intense, acidulous flavor than the common passion fruit (P. edulis). It has high nutritional value (containing potassium, iron, phosphorous, calcium and vitamins) and is famous for its relaxing effect. Traditionally, unlike the more commercialized varieties, such as the yellow or sour passion fruit, the maracujá do mato is not cultivated and is picked by local families who eat it fresh or drink its juice. They also use the leaves and skin to make infusions.
Like many other wild species, it is threatened by human intervention, especially by the spread of monocultures and the introduction of intensively irrigated plants.
This is why, in 2011, it was loaded onto the Ark of Taste as a species at risk of extinction, and since then it has been promoted by the Slow Food network. Today it is used as an ingredient in jams, and the communities that protect it take part in regional food festivals.
Sertão do São Francisco, Bahia, Northeast Brazil.
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