The maypop is the only passionfruit/passionflower native to the temperate US East Coast, with a range stretching from southern New Jersey to Florida in the East and from Texas to Kansas in the West. It has naturalized in other parts of the country and in Europe. Popular as an herbal sleep aid and anxiety treatment (usually in the form of a tea made from the leaves), maypops also produce a delicious fruit which ripen in autumn and follow one of the most beautiful flowers on the planet. A perennial vine, it dies back to the ground each winter and grows back bigger each summer. It benefits from having a trellis or some other structure (like a tree) to climb, which increases fruit production, but they will also sprawl along the ground and grow a foot or two into the air using its own vines as support, if no other support is provided. The sweet-and-sour fruit pulp (with a flavor reminiscent of pineapple, lemon, kiwi, and banana, though entirely unique) can be made into jam or jelly, eaten raw, or used as a flavoring for homebrews, kombucha, wine, or drinking vinegar. Our seeds come from populations at the northern reaches of its "natural range" (which was likely extended so far north by Native Americans many centuries ago), in southern New Jersey and Delaware, which means there's a strong likelihood some of the plants will be able to thrive far north of that. We have heard reports of growers having success (mainly in protected spots, such as next to a house) as far north as Maine or even into parts of Canada.
You can tell the fruit are ripe by holding one to your nose and sniffing. The luscious tropical fruit scent is unmistakable. If you can't smell it, you either can't smell, or they're not ripe. Wrinkly skin is a tell-tale sign, along with a softness to the fruit. They are quite firm before they ripen. The flesh around the seeds should be yellow, not white, for full ripeness. Before it does ripen, the flesh is very sour, and the juice can be used as a substitute for lemon juice.
Note on germination: Each year we send these seeds away for germination testing and the test comes back a few weeks later with a low number. In our experience, even seeds from lots that test very low will end up with a much higher germination rate as long as they are planted in a good seed-starting medium and kept moist for up to two months. Patience is necessary. Many will germinate much sooner than that, but they germinate over time. If you end up with no seeds germinating, we will be happy to replace them at no charge. But even one successful sprout is enough for a lifetime of maypops!