Feijoa

Feijoa

[fey-yoh-uh, -hoh-uh]

The Feijoa (Feijoa sellowiana, synonym Acca sellowiana), also known as Pineapple Guava or Guavasteen, is an evergreen shrub or small tree, in height, originating from the highlands of southern Brazil, parts of Colombia, Uruguay and northern Argentina. It has been spotted in Georgia and both flowering and fruiting in Lafayette, Louisiana and in Charleston, South Carolina, and California. It is widely cultivated as a garden plant and fruiting tree in New Zealand, and can be found as a garden plant in Australia.

Description of fruit and plant

The fruit matures in autumn and is green, ellipsoid-shaped and the size of a chicken egg. It has a sweet, aromatic flavor. The flesh is juicy and is divided into a clear jelly-like seed pulp and a firmer, slightly gritty opaque flesh nearer the skin. The fruit drops when ripe, but can be picked from the tree prior to the drop to prevent bruising. This plant is monotypic in its genus. Like the closely-related guava, the fruit pulp has a gritty texture which is utilized in some natural cosmetic products as an exfoliant. Feijoa fruit have a distinctive smell. The ester methyl benzoate smells strongly of feijoas and the aroma of the fruit is caused mostly by this and other closely related esters.

German botanist Otto Karl Berg named Feijoa after João da Silva Feijó, a Brazilian botanist.

Growing conditions

It is a warm-temperate to subtropical plant that will also grow in the tropics but requires some winter chilling to fruit. In the northern hemisphere it has been cultivated as far north as western Scotland but does not fruit every year, as winter temperatures below about will kill the flower buds. Large quantities are grown in New Zealand, where the fruit is a popular garden tree and the fruit is commonly available in season.

Consumption and uses

The fruit is usually eaten by cutting it in half, then scooping out the pulp with a spoon. The fruits have a juicy sweet seed pulp, and slightly gritty flesh nearer the skin. The flavour is aromatic and sweet. If the utensils needed to eat it this way are not available, the feijoa can be torn or bitten in half, and the contents squeezed out and consumed. An alternative is to bite the end off and then tear the fruit in half length ways, exposing a larger surface with less curvature. The teeth can then scrape the pulp out closer to the skin, with less wastage. They can even be eaten whole, with only the junction to the plant cut off. The skin is sour and can be bitter, but provides a nice balance to the sweet pulp. Still, this is a less common method in some countries, but in Latin America, the fruit's homeland, it is often eaten this way. A feijoa can also be used as an interesting addition to a fruit smoothie, and can be used to make feijoa wine and feijoa infused vodka. It is also possible to buy Feijoa yogurt, fruit drinks, jam, ice-cream, etc. in New Zealand. The Feijoa can also be cooked and used in dishes where one would use stewed fruit. It is a popular ingredient in chutney.

Fruit maturity is not always apparent from the outside as the fruits remain green until they are over-mature or rotting. Generally the fruit is at its optimum ripeness the day it drops from the tree. While still hanging it may well prove bitter. Once fallen fruit very quickly become over-ripe, so a daily collection of fallen fruit is advisable during the season. When the fruits are immature the seed pulp is white and opaque, becoming clear and jelly-like when ripe. Fruits are at their optimum maturity when the seed pulp has turned into a clear jelly with no hint of browning. Once the seed pulp and surrounding flesh start to brown, the fruit is over mature and shouldn't be eaten. However large proups of these over mature but not rotten fruits can be used to make a delicious juice very popular in places like the Colombian Highlands.

The pink to white flowers petals have a delightful flavor, are crisp, moist, and fleshy.

Shipping and sale

Ripe fruit is very prone to bruising; maintaining the fruit in good condition for any length of time is not easy. This, along with the short period of optimum ripeness, probably explains why Feijoas, although delicious, are not widely exported, and where grown commercially are often only sold close to the source of the crop. Feijoas can be cool-stored for approximately a month and still have a few days of shelf life at optimum eating maturity. They're also able to be put in the freezer up to one year without a loss in quality. Because of the relatively short shelf life store keepers need to be careful to replace older feijoas regularly to ensure high quality. In some countries, feijoas can also be purchased at roadside stalls, often at a lower price.

Cultivation

Some grafted cultivars are self fertile. Most are not, and require a pollenizer. Seedlings may or may not be of usable quality, and may or may not be self fertile. In New Zealand, the pollinators are medium sized birds such as the Silvereye in the cooler parts of the South Island, the blackbird or the Indian myna further North, which feed on the sweet, fleshy petals of the feijoa flower. In some areas where the species has been introduced, it has been unproductive due to lack of pollinators.

In northern California, robins, mockingbirds, starlings, scrub jays, towhees and grey squirrels feast on the petals and can be assumed to be assisting with pollination. Honey bees also visit the flowers.

External links

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