Tropical Guavas (Psidium guajava) have been cultivated for millennia and are thought to have been native to an area from southern Mexico through Central America. They require a nearly frost free site to grow well and will stand a wide range of soil types and pH. In time the tree can grow up to 8 metres high but it can be trained lower by judicious pruning. The bark of the trunk is a lovely smooth brown.
Cutting grown plants can start fruiting in their second year, seedlings take about three years. Different cultivars tend to fruit at different times over the winter/spring. The musky odour and flavour of all cultivars is stronger and more flavoursome when winters are mild. Certainly when we have a cold winter the flavour doesn’t develop until the temperatures rise. Fruit are ripe when they drop and they can be eaten directly or if you are partial to the canned form then you will find the freshly stewed fruit delicious. They may also be used in combination with meats. Some cultivars have white to soft yellow flesh and others have pink flesh.
A later fruiting cultivar I have has pink-fleshed, round fruit and is a seedling tree coming ripe from late winter. This one is consistently good to eat out of hand and the flavour gets better as the spring weather warms up, the only problem it has is that its cuttings won’t root which is a pity. Trees are reasonably true from seed so the seedlings from it should be okay. I’m sure that if someone was keen enough to plant a lot of seedlings a very good form could be selected for the fresh fruit trade and for juicing. They make a very good drink. Another way of processing the fruit for later in the year is to make a fruit cheese from the cooked fruit using the same recipe as used for quinces. This is absolutely delicious but it does take a lot of patience in the drying. I also find they can be frozen and then processed when you want them.
In the North we have a problem with Fruit Boring Moth, or Guava Moth, caterpillars which is a bit off-putting when you find one inside a fruit but work is proceeding with control for this new caterpillar and we hope it will be of little concern in the future.
The red-leafed forms of tropical guavas are very attractive and they have lovely pink flowers compared to the green leafed forms which have white flowers. I haven’t found a red form that has as good a fruit as the green leaved ones though they do have a very red fleshed fruit. The leaves are aromatic.
In the tropics a couple of fresh leaves eaten raw are used for curing diarrhoea
Altogether a good fruit which is also supposed to be high in vitamin C.