BY BARBARA STORZ
Guava, Psidium guajava, is a small subtropical fruit tree native to southern Mexico and Central America. This frost sensitive tree grows well in the Rio Grande Valley. A hard freeze will kill it, but it usually comes back from the roots. Guava begins producing in its first 2 to 4 years and produces well for approximately 15 years.
In the United States, Hawaii is the only commercial producer of guava, but it is found in small plantings in Southern California and Florida. At one time Florida produced guava, primarily for canning. Guava is eaten fresh, used in jam, in bakery products and to flavor drinks. It is also powdered and used in protein drinks.
In most countries where guava will grow, it is eaten as fresh fruit. It is very low on the glycemic index, making it an excellent choice as a snack, especially for those with diabetes.
The fruit are round, ovoid or pear shaped, depending on the variety. Pulp runs from yellowish white to dark pink. If fruit is left on the tree to ripen, it should be eaten within a couple of days after it ripens. For this reason, fruit is usually picked green and commercial varieties are limited in selection in most stores. Farmers markets, worldwide, carry the widest selection.
Guava is reasonably drought tolerant, once established, and does best if the branches are cut to main leaders, like peach trees, so that the tree does not break from overloading of fruit. It is sensitive to windy conditions and needs protection, especially from the hot, dry winds.
The fruit is low in calories, is an excellent source of folate and fiber, and is high in Vitamin C and a good source of Vitamin A and flavonoids like beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene. These all have antioxidant properties that support good health. It is a rich source of potassium and is a moderate source of the B-complex vitamins, as well as Vitamin E and K, and niacin and minerals like magnesium, copper and manganese.
This is guava season in South Texas and you can find the large “Barbie Pink” guava this Saturday at the Growing Growers Farmers Market in Firemen’s Park, corner of First Street and Business 83, in McAllen. This market is open from 9 a.m. to noon every Saturday under the pavilion in the park. This market carries a large variety of locally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs, along with certified 100-percent grassfed beef, Gulf caught shrimp, goat’s milk cheese, eggs, raw honey and a large selection of baked goods, especially for those with special dietary needs, as well as natural skin care products.
Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can listen to her at 7 a.m. Saturdays on 710 KURV radio. You can reach her by e-mail at [email protected]