Strawberry or lemon guava, wild or cultivated, the guava is an amazing fruit found throughout the South Pacific. The fruit is green, ripening to lighter green, aromatic and a favourite of children and fruit flies alike. The flesh colour ranges from creamy white through to pink and even bright red and the wood of the tree is hard and a good fuel for wood-burning stoves.
The tree is actually an oversized, straggly bush reaching 10 metres tall in the wild. Cultivated, it can be kept trim and polite. The fruit is carried on the new year’s growth and the flowers are pollinated by bees. The guava is considered a weed in plantations but it does provide food for birds and stock alike. No one has grown guava as a commercial crop in Vanuatu, probably because there has not been a processing industry set up. In India, guava is canned and juiced, pureed and powdered, consumed for its taste and health benefits.
Guava is an immunity booster; the fruit of guava trees contain more than four times the vitamin C of an orange. The lycopene in the fruit, together with other polyphenols, join as potent antioxidants. Lycopene rich foods are also known to reduce prostate and breast cancers. A low glycaemic index ensures that sugar levels in everyone are well regulated while the high fibre in the fruit is extremely beneficial to the digestive system. One could go on and on about all the amazing health benefits of the guava!
There is another fruit that is closely related to the wild guava called the guavasteen or feijoa. Both trees belong to the Myrtle family and share similar flower structure and green fruit. However the cultivated commercial varieties of the feijoa do not have the same gritty flesh and have plump juice sacks and a beautiful exotic perfume. Some of the newer varieties have edible skins that contain very high levels of flavonoids.
Feijoas are known for their properties to combat stress. A daily dose of feijoa will improve circulation to the brain, stimulate cognitive function and relax the nerves. The harvest season for feijoa lasts about eight weeks, and the guava season will occur twice a year in response to rain. Feijoa and guava have to be handled with care as they bruise easily and when cut, the flesh will oxidize like apples; a little citric acid or heating will stop the discoloration.
Both feijoa and guava will change into a pink colour when cooked. The cooking process also reduces the level of perfume for those that find the fresh flavour overpowering.
Feijoa and Guava are the two new flavours to grace the breakfast bars in Port Vila, with the refreshing juice now found on the menus of good restaurants and hotels. Locally made juices are another product to claim a tick from the Agritourism committee and the wild sustainable harvests of guava and papaya are now blended into new flavours to further the tourism experience, while providing local farmers with an income. This new juice made from guavasteen and papaya has been branded ‘F’ Juice and you can try it on its own, or blended into cocktails. Made in Vanuatu, the Guavasteen mixes well with vodka, a good sunset and your best friend.
By Cornelia Wyllie. Cornelia is the caretaker of Rainbow Botanic Gardens. She is well known for her in depth knowledge of tropical plants and gardening. Rainbow Gardens Nursery and the Botanical Gardens is open Monday to Friday 7:30am to 5pm, Saturday 7:30 to 12pm and after hours by appointment. Take a tour of the Gardens to view Vanuatu’s fantastic range of tropical plants. Contact Tudsie on 7726720 to book a Garden Tour. Contact Cornelia to arrange functions and catering on 7724720.