Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Foraging -- Pineapple Guava

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photo from Bay View Elementary School's nutrition program


At this time last year, everyone at Berkeley Repertory Theater was in the middle of a huge upheaval. We'd bought a complex of buildings, had given up our leased spaces, and were racing to get moved in during a rare period of "down time." My scene shop didn't just move the contents of the eighteen thousand square foot warehouse. We also moved all of the systems. So, when the air-handling system was moved, and we had no heat, I knit hats for all of my staff. It was a hard and hectic time, but we got through it, and are now settled into our new workplace.

At the time of the move, I noticed some unusual fruit-looking objects laying on the sidewalk, outside of our new place. My brain was occupied with the thousand details of the move, and I told myself to stay focused and to keep moving.

The following spring, I noticed that the hedge that surrounded our complex was blooming. The flowers were like nothing I'd ever seen before. Fleshy and velvety and very exotic. Oddly, a few days after the flowers caught my eye, I saw them on a website about tropical fruits. Turns out, they were the flowers of the feijoa, otherwise known as the pineapple guava or guavasteen.

The flowers themselves are edible. Posh folks around here use them as a garnish in champagne. The local squirrels certainly loved to eat the flowers. I never failed to smile when I saw an urban squirrel munching on one of these crazy-looking blooms.




Now, the hedge has ripened, and I'm collecting these odd fruit before and after work. The fruit fall off the plant once they're ripened, and I have no shame about picking them up off the ground. (I wash them very carefully.)




The fruit has a texture like pear, and tastes like a cross between kiwi fruit, jolly rancher candies, and just a smidge of turpentine (actually, I meant kerosene -- whoops). They have an intoxicating perfumed fragrance that Robb finds disconcerting, but which I just love. They're smaller than a chicken's egg.

We eat them by cutting off the skins (which carry most of the solvent-y flavor) and eating the entire fruit. You can cut them in half and scoop out the pulp with a spoon. Delicious.




These fruits are native to South America, but grow very well in the San Francisco Bay area. I tasted several varieties at the most recent meeting of the California Rare Fruit Growers. They're not true guavas, but rather belong to the myrtle family. The shrubs are evergreen, and very attractive.



What about you? Have you ever tried these? What did you think?

10 comments:

Kaveh said...

I have never tried the fruit (and if they have any sort of turpentine taste I am not sure I want to) but the petals of the flowers are absolutely delicious.

emily jan said...

I've been thinking of planting one of these in the front yard! I want an evergreen tree that gives fruit and will survive our clayey soil…only tried them once (someone brought a batch from Berkeley to a residency I was on) but I thought they were very tasty.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Emily -- The plants are apparently un-killable. We give them no care at all, at work.

By the way, you and I should coordinate our fruit planting, so we can maximize the variety. I'd happily share any of my bounty, if you wanted to swap!

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Kaveh -- they're turpentine-y the way that mangoes are.

mary jane said...

What a lucky surprise! I love following your urban foraging exploits! Happy Happy Happy to you both. xox MJ

Kaveh said...

Well that cinched it. I hate mangos. Every time I try them I end up running around the room in circles crying "Why!? Why? Why?". Or is it Papayas that I hate? Anyway I will stick with the yummy petals.

knitica said...

Wow, you live in paradise! Not only do gorgeous exotic flowers grow on neglected hedges, but they bear tropical fruits in December!

Great post. I'd love to try them, but don't think they'll be at my local Wegman's anytime soon.

Miss you both.

Noreen said...

I have not tried them. But in case anyone is looking for a change of pace, come to Michigan, where we grow fruit that doesn't smell like turpentine, some other solvent, or even like kerosene. OK, I won't be snotty. Fascinating. I never heard of Pineapple Guava. I always learn somethiing when I come to your blog.

Barbara E said...

My neighbor gave me a bunch of these in exchange for avocados. I like them. I just scoop them out like kiwis.

Nataline said...

Thanks for the note about them being in the Myrtle family! We have a guava tree in our backyard and our neighbors have a pineapple guava and would try to give us some each year, but they never "felt" like true guavas. Now I know why!

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