Best-kept secrets of your neighbor’s yard part 2: Guava flowers

It’s guava flower season!  If you’re in California or the South, there’s a very good chance that someone who lives next to you is using pineapple guavas (Acca sellowiana) for their hedges or shrubbery.  These Argentinian natives (also called feijoas) don’t always set fruit, but their flowers are a great snack all on their own.

Pineapple guava flowers peeking out from the Berkeley shrubbery.

Look for bright red clusters of stamens on tall shrubs with grey-green leaves.  Then make sure that the cluster of stamens is surrounded by 4 petals: light pink on the outside, and pink-purple on the inside.  On the best ones, the petals will be a little bit spongy.  Pluck off the petals and try them (the stamens are edible too, but don’t taste like much).

On the best guava flowers, the petals have curled so that you mostly see the light pink spongy exteriors.

Delicious, right?  Soft, juicy, sweet, with a kinda spicy tropical tang.  If you’ve ever had guava Kern’s nectar, you recognize the flavor, because it’s the same plant.

Pineapple guavas need 50 hours of cold to set fruit, don’t set well in high temps (90 degrees or higher), and many cultivars also need a pollinator, so if you’re in a very warm climate your new snack may never mature into fruit.  Still, it’s best to be optimistic and leave the stamens and pistil attached to the shrub–if you’re lucky in a few months there will be egg-sized leathery looking green fruits to eat as well.

Pineapple guava fruit. Photo by HortResearch via wikimedia.

I will confess to often liberating guava petals from their owners without asking permission, but it’s probably better to tell your neighbor that you’d like to eat their shrubbery.  Ideally, they’ll not only be happy to let you have at it, but gratified to learn about the tasty treat in their yard.

Special thanks to my college adviser Dr. Daniel Martinez, an Argentinian native himself, who introduced these to me back in the day.  And a tip for fellow folks at the Stanford med school: the bushes next to the patio at LKSC should be full of these any day now.

I’m also told they’re a popular cultivated fruit in New Zealand.  Can anyone confirm?

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4 thoughts on “Best-kept secrets of your neighbor’s yard part 2: Guava flowers

  1. Confirmation from New Zealand? Yes, absolutely. A lot of people have them in their gardens, but they’re not grown much commercially. 50 years ago kiwifruit were also rarely grown commercially. Both are easiest eaten by cutting in half and scooping out the flesh with a teaspoon.

  2. Ah – this is what we in the UK also call the pineapple guava or Feijoa. In milder parts of the country, like Cornwall, it grows quite well and although the fruits don’t always ripen, I like to forage the petals on occasion. They ‘re very tasty. Thanks for an intelligent and informative blog.

    • Well thank you! I am gathering a good catalog of the growing habits and nicknames for these worldwide :). I think it makes sense that the milder parts of the UK would be suited to these–enough of a winter to get them to set fruit, but not so much as to kill them off. Here we eschew winter almost entirely–November transitions straight to early spring–and I suspect that’s why so few of them set (on the other hand, my grandfather’s tree in San Diego always had fruit, so maybe it’s more of a pollination issue. Jury’s still out).

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