by Ed Halmagyi


Whether you are religiously-minded or not, it seems that no one is immune to the excitement surrounding Mary MacKillop’s impending sainthood. Our nation of beggars and thieves has come of age, and an important part of the good and charitable history we share is being recognised by the world.

So what can you do about it? How can you get involved?

Well, how about planting a passionfruit.

Like Mary, the passionfruit vine across the back fence is a singularly Australian icon. B more relevantly, the passionfruit has an historically significant religious context.

Passionfruit species are found throughout the tropical and temperate zones, particularly in the southern hemisphere. Broadly they divide into the large golden passionfruit (a large grouping that includes the red Panamanian variety and the Andean granadilla), and then there’s a smaller type – our peculiarly Australian purple passionfruit.

Although our indigenous passionfruit is now grown throughout Asia and beyond, it was originally discovered by explorers along the northern NSW coast. Although smaller, its concentrated flavour made it a prized find, and specimens were grown in the newly established Botanic Gardens by the first Colonial Botanist Charles Fraser.

But what of religion? In fact the name ‘Passion fruit’ was given by the Spanish conquistadors in the early 16th century when they discovered the fruit in Central America. An erudite, through anonymous, monk noted the unique conformation of the plant’s flower, and used it as a device to teach Christianity to the conquered indigenous people.

He named it the ‘Passion Flower’ for the Passion of the Christ, in which the story of Jesus’ last days are told. The three stamen represented the three nails with which Jesus was crucified. The flower has five anthers, one for each of Christ’s wounds. The threads of the flower were said to remind us of the Crown of Thorns, while the tendrils bore testament to the whips with which he was scourged. Finally the ten petals and sepals are signifiers of the ten worthy apostles – Judas is excluded for his treachery, and Peter for denial.

For teaching those who could not read, the early preachers found excellent scripture written in the world around them.

So do it for Mary, and plant it before Easter. By next summer you could be making a batch of St Mary’s Passionfruit Jam!
Cherry and passionfruit cheesecake tartlettes