Right around December the pineapple guavas begin to drop and give off their delightful perfume. This is an odd fruit; silver green and shaped like a hens egg with a fragrance out of kilter with its looks. The smell promises so much sweetness.
The proper name is Feijoa sellowiana and it is a popular landscaping plant even without the added bonus of fruit. This shrub has evergreen leathery leaves with a silvery underside. The blossoms are pinkish with bright red stamens that draw in the hummingbirds. That show alone should put this plant on the top of the list for a spot in the garden. It is also drought tolerant in the sand which makes it a double AA plus plant in my book. One word of caution; if you are growing specifically for fruit, it must be watered to develop the fruit. Otherwise it will be a nice looking flowering shrub with no fruit.
At a fruit tasting I discovered that the seed grown guavas have quite a bit of variability in form and taste, so it is worth getting a known clone with the desired flavor. Some varieties have much rounder, yellower sweeter flesh, and some have a longer form with a tart thicker skin (‘Nazemetz’ shown below). Generally, the best way to enjoy is to scoop the pulp from the skin and eat fresh.
The guavas just begin to drop off the shrub when ripe and can ripen further on the counter. The smell is intoxicating. Because pineapple guavas are so very abundant (and one feels so very averse to leave out for the possums), it must be figured out how to insert into the food plan! A quick internet search shows many smoothie, jam, chutney, fruit leather and fruit bread recipes using pineapple guavas, but not so much in the savory arena. Ginger and cloves are a great pairing with the flavor of pineapple guavas and can work for sweet or savory. Roasted chicken with a guava chutney is most memorable. I just spread a pint of chutney made last year over a halved fryer and roasted uncovered in a glass baking dish. Served the roasted chicken with Basmati rice and spooned the roasted sauce over all.
The F. sellowiana can be a wide shrub (4′ wide x 6′ tall) or trained as a small tree (15″ + tall). I found this link to UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County that mentions shaping the guava into an espallier to save space. There is a photo of a much yellower variety (unfortunately not named) but the image indicates the enormous variability of the fruit between cultivars.
Let’s get the confession out of the way first—I did not grow this pumpkin.
Here is the story; for years I have grown a few pumpkins in the backyard. They have never been abundant nor large due to various cultural constraints (space, for one). But, after a period of display for Halloween and autumn color they all get eaten. Years that I did not have a particularly large crop, my neighbor who grows wonderful pumpkins up the street has passed a few Cinderella pumpkins my way. Before the ground squirrels became such a problem at a local community garden, pumpkins were traded there as well.
This year disaster struck. I did not grow pumpkins. My neighbor did not grow pumpkins. The ground squirrels ate every pumpkin, gourd, squash and any other delicious growing thing in the community garden. It was after Halloween and all the pumpkins had been removed from the stores. What ensued was an epic pumpkin hunt all because I refused to use canned pumpkin for the annual Thanksgiving pies.
Although I finally tracked down the heirloom pumpkin featured in the image above, why would these nutritious and long storing fruits be discarded from the grocery stores so hastily? Butternut, banana and acorn squash are available all through the winter, but pumpkins have been relegated to ornamental value only. It is time to rethink this “tasteless” trend.
It is relatively easy to cut up, remove seeds and boil up a pumpkin. I don’t bother to take the rind off before hand because it is easier to scoop the flesh from the rind with a big spoon (throw seeds and rind into the compost). I then put all of the pulp in to a stainless steel mesh strainer and allow the pumpkin to drain for a bit. Then just squeeze out the liquid a bit more by pressing down on the pulp. The resulting liquid is useful for watering outdoor plants because of the nutrients—so don’t throw down the sink!
After making a few pies, I freeze the remaining pumpkin to use for soups, breads and more pies. I freeze in measured batches based on how I might use in the future. The freezing process releases more of the liquid from the cells when defrosting; an added bonus for a relatively dry pumpkin pulp.
Ironically, after all the footwork spent on locating a pumpkin for Thanksgiving pies, someone dropped off a wealth of pumpkins and gourds at the community garden compost pile the very day after! It was an unexpected wealth of color and form. Mind you, they were perfectly good to eat, but no longer required in their ornamental capacity. I think it is possible find a better use for them. Pumpkin curry anyone?