Strawberry Guava

by Green Deane

in Beverage, Edible Raw, Fruits/Berries, Jam/Jelly, Miscellaneous, Plants, Trees/Shrubs

 

Strawberry guava with green and ripe fruit

  Psidium littorale var. cattleianum: Strawberry Guava

One man’s fruit tree is another man’s weed. My one Strawberry Guava tree is a fruiting delight. However, in the Caribbean, Hawaii, and parts of Florida, it’s an invasive weed, which also means free food. Then again, when you think of it, foragers are always surrounded by food.

Native to the Atlantic coast of Brazil, the Strawberry Guava has been exported to warm places around the world and naturalized. Where you find citrus you will find Strawberry Guava. It was imported into Florida in the 1880s as an ornamental and for fruit production. Closely related to the common guava, it forms dense stands that overpowers local species. Once entrenched it is hard to remove. Currently there are no controls though Hawaii is in the process of importing an insect to slow its growth. All the while it produces fruit.

That it is a guava is not debatable. That its fruit tastes like strawberries is. When there fruit is extremely ripe it can have a momentary fragrance of strawberry. Otherwise to me it tastes more like tart passionfruit.

I have learned that picking the fruit requires timing. The fruit starts out hard and green. At some point they begin to ripen and become mottled, a little, green, a little white, a little red. As a fruit turns color it also softens. At that stage it is perfect for picking. It will be tart, seeds not quite hard yet, and bug free. If you wait until the fruit turns completely red, or even dark red, it will — here at least — be full of fruit fly larvae. That is not to say, however, that the fruit is unusable then. that depends on whether you like the extra protein.

The fruit of the Strawberry Guava can be eaten right off the bush. The seeds are hard so chew strategically. The skin is tart and some folks prefer to scoop out the swet flesh and seeds not eating the skin. Some prefer just the flesh, which is sweet. The seeds can be eaten carefully or roasted as a coffee substitute. Thus older, wormy fruit can be collected for their seeds. The leaves of the tree can also be used to make a tea. I’ve made the fruit into jelly and fruit leather. You might want to omit the seeds from the fruit leather. They stay hard and challenge your dentistry, but they can be included if you want. The wood is good for smoking meat and can also be made into tools and toys.

The Strawberry Guava is an all-round versatile weed. Perhaps the only draw back, besides being invasive,  is it fruits only once a year and all at once, over and done with within a couple of weeks. I have found if I pick the ripening fruit daily it ripens more fruit and lessens the fruit fly issue.

Pineapple guava

Botanically, the Strawberry Guava is in the myrtle family and is Psidium littorale var catteianum.  SID-ee-um  lit-aw-RAY-lee  catt-tee-eye-AY-num. Psidium is the Greek word for pomegranate. Littorale is of the sea shore. The variety is named after William Cattley (d. 1832), English horticulturalist  who was the first person to successfully cultivate the species. The Strawberry Guava is also called Psidium catteianum. Incidentally, there is a Pineapple Guava as well, Feijoa sellowiana. I’ve only seen one. It’s fruit stays green and has an odd cross shape on the end. It drops when ripe but can be picked before that. See picture above.  Its blossom petals are edible.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: Evergreen shrub or small tree to 25 feet tall, with gray to reddish-brown peeling bark and young branches round, slightly hairy. Leaves opposite, simple, no teeth, no hair, elliptic to oblong to 3 inches long. Flowers: To just over an inch wide; single at leaf axils, with white petals and a mass of white and yellow stamens. Fruit golfball size, looks similar to small pomegranates, purple red, whitish flesh, sweet when ripe, many seeds.  There is also a yellow edible version.

TIME OF YEAR: Can bloom and fruit all year but bears its main crop in early to mid summer.

ENVIRONMENT: Extreme. It can grow in near dry conditions to a rainforest. The more water and sun, the taller it can grow. Will not tolerate freezing.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Many. It can be eaten off the bush, best when between green and red, mottled. Can be made in to pies, jam, jellies, drinks, sauces, fruit leather et cetera. Seeds are edible but hard. Can be roasted and used to extend coffee or as a substitute. A tea can be made from the leaves. A yellow species can be used the same way.  Again, the seeds while edible are tough and hard on your teeth.

 

 

 

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mobin Shahzad March 24, 2013 at 16:02

Recently on a hike along the Mañana trail we came across this Strwaberry Guvavas not sure if wild fruits are poisonous or not , we saw some birds eating it and decided to sample them.
It was absolutely the best tasting wild fruit I ever had, being a hunter I have rated wild berries in Africa but this was really nice. It came as a big surprise to me that this is a weed if such is the case it should be transported to India and Pakistan where it could be used as Animal fodder too.

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2 Green Deane March 24, 2013 at 18:51

You were lucky. Birds can eat arsenic. What animals eat is no indication what we can eat. I do agree that Strawberry Guavas are tasty.

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3 Steven June 17, 2013 at 01:50

I have just this day learnt that these are strawberry guavas (here on this site) and that feijoas are pineapple guavas (somewhere else). Growing up I’d only ever known the strawberry variety to be called gauvas and the pineapple variety to be called feijoas.
Great to learn new stuff and keep up the great site Dean!

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4 Sylvester017 August 26, 2013 at 04:24

On the farm as a kid we had two of these strawberry guava bushes. Year after year they barely grew, but then they were just left out in the fruit orchard to withstand rain, sun, wind, drought, and frost. It was my job to water the fruit trees as a kid and you know how reliable a kid can be – not! We did not live in a snow area so don’t know its ability to survive that. Hardy little bushes never died and faithfully gave the most delicious fruit I can remember from childhood. My mouth drooled when I saw the little fruit start to color. Tart but if truly ripened it was heaven. Now that I’m into gardening, I dreamed of getting one or two of these plants to pot in my patio. However, after researching the problems this plant can invite into my yard, I’m not so sure I care for possible infestation growth, or various fruit flies, and I know I’d never use it as firewood or coffee. I read a government report that guavas can be planted to lure the citrus greening fruit fly away from citrus crops but doesn’t look like it can stop a 20+ counties infestation to the Florida crops. With strawberry guavas bearing fruit for only 2 or 3 weeks in summer, I can’t see that it would do much to help lure that many flies away from a citrus crop. Common sense tells you the ripened guavas would just invite larger infestations. I think my strawberry guava dream will stay in my dreams.

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5 Marjorie October 31, 2013 at 18:14

A few years ago, we bought a small tree from our local Home Depot (Southern California) labeled as Carribean Guava (that turned out to be strawberry guava), which we have since planted in our backyard. The tree has been very slow-growing, flowering during the summer, but no fruits. This summer we saw fruits for the first time, not a whole lot, but when completely ripe, they were a perfect mix of tartness and sweetness. No fruit flies or infestation at all, and the tree has been maintenance free in our backyard. We can’t wait for a bigger crop next summer.

Incidentally, our next door neighbor has a tree which turned out to be pineapple guava. We would occasionally find green fruits from their tree on the ground and at the time we thought they had fallen prematurely. Now I know the fruits remain green when ripe – it must have been over-ripe fruits that had fallen.

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6 sumanth February 16, 2014 at 01:15

I am a 57yr old mechanical engineer living in the same house for the past 5 generations. I grew up with a lot of plants and animals in my ancestral house. we had a strawberry guava tree named “Seemay seebay” in local language, meaning a “foreign guava” (Though i did not know the name then) and I remember so well all my friends and neighbors would be dying to eat the fruits in the season. The tree is no more with us to day. I was searching the web to see if I can get a plant through my nephew who is in the US. after a lot of search, i got some seeds from a friend which did not germinate. Now i have more seeds from ROBSRAREANDGIANTSEEDS.COM. I hope this time I must be lucky if a few of them germinate. Keeping my fingers crossed. In the mean time I saw a disappointing article saying that only fresh seeds directly from the fruit will germinate and not the dried ones. Is it a fact? If i can’t grow these seeds where and how can I get more good seeds? I am very eager to give these plants a fresh start in my place for my next generation.

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7 Cindy du Plessis April 14, 2014 at 13:37

Hi all, this afternoon I went to get the post out and walked past the bush in the corner and thought hmmm, looks like a little guava… and I picked one and did the tongue tip test… ok so this is not how you check for edibility of fruit in the wild and I cannot recall ever seeing a bird eat these, but it was very tart tasting and not too icky but I wouldn’t want to eat one entirely… and it had seeds in it like a guava… so yeah it was one of these strawberry guavas. What tickles me is that it is very slow growing and I’ve never seen any of it’s seeds sprout in our garden where things like Jakaranda trees and palm trees come up without much problems. We are also in South Africa, where the summers get 30-35 at it’s hottest and winter 15-20 with the night temps touching 0 degrees celsius. This is also stuck under a very dense shade tree, which might account for the slow growth as well as the survival of the winter cold. It is not that invasive if it has never sprouted a single seedling in the 6 years I’ve lived here. Or could it be a particular cultivar?

As for the pineapple guava or feijoa they are very hardy and can survive quite cold winters. They also taste wonderful when ripe, but as the flesh is white and the worms are white… extra meat not optional, unless you spray it from the bud till the fruit is nice and large… it’s like a mix of all the tastiest summer tropical fruits… very tasty. I think we call it the Fruit Salad Tree?

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8 Nancy July 7, 2014 at 14:08

Is the strawberry guava toxic to dogs?

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9 Green Deane July 7, 2014 at 15:09

I have not heard of said but that is not my area of expertise.

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10 marie August 3, 2014 at 19:03

My dog loves to eat the strawberry guavas. When he goes out he eats as fast as he can till I catch him because he gets sick when he eats to many. it is not the fruit just my gluten of a dog.

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11 Diane Goldberg July 17, 2014 at 11:00

I hope no one is encouraged to grow these or the regular guava. They are both considered category I invasive plants by the FLEPPC (http://www.fleppc.org/list/2013PlantList-WithLinksToUFL-update_05_28_14.pdf), which means they can do environmental harm to our natural areas. They spread & replace our native plants, which our wildlife need more.

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12 marie August 3, 2014 at 19:06

I have 5 trees at the side of my house and they have never spread. They have been there for at least 12 yrs. they are about 20 ft. tall.

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13 James Sloan July 19, 2014 at 13:11

I have a large, hearty strawberry guava in my small line of fruit trees along a driveway in eastern central Florida. The tree has produced heavy quantities of fruit for eight years, but I have never found any seedlings growing in the forest near my little orchard. I am usually on vacation when they ripen to a red color, so the neighbors occasionally harvest them for jelly and eating. Possums clean the tree of all unpicked Guava, along with the Loquat and Surinam Cherry fruit. Many of the Loquat and Surinam Cherry seeds they drop do grow in the surrounding forest, but not the Strawberry Guava. Jelly from the strawberry guava is not flavorful, so juice of another berry or fruit must be added to improve the flavor. It is true that the tree is drought resistant and needs no fertilizer to bear fruit. This year I will be home when the fruit ripens and I intend to make some jelly and jam.

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14 Lisa November 13, 2014 at 15:54

I have two of the Pineapple guava trees in my yard. I have lived here for 4 years and they haven’t grown much. I didn’t realize the fruit was edible until last year. I have never sprayed them and I have never seen any worms in them. (Are they microscopic?) One of the trees doesn’t produce much fruit and the fruit it does give is very small, while the other right next to it gives a bounty of fruits that are much larger than the other tree. (Still not that big…about 4.5 inches long and maybe 3 inches in diameter?? Some are smaller) But they are tart and sweet…very tasty. The birds around here don’t go for them much that I can see. Maybe they are full from the persimmons that are ripe at the same time, and lots and lots of those too high to pick.

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