Saturday, July 9, 2011

FRUITS OF BRAZIL - Guava (Goiaba)

Brazil is the world's largest producer of guavas (goiaba in Portuguese), even though it is geographically very wide-spread and popular in tropical regions around the globe, from Mexico to South Africa and from India to Hawaii. The guava tree itself (Genus:Psidium) originated somewhere between Mexico and Northern South America, but it has been cultivated since pre-history and has spread so far that its origins are lost in time. Man has partially been responsible for the spread of the guava tree, carrying it from the New World to the Old, but the guava tree can also thank birds for helping it to extend its global reach. Guava seed are extremely hard, and remain viable for long periods of time. Undigested seeds in bird droppings can sprout thousands of miles from the mother tree and create new groves in locations far removed from historic habitats.

There are many varieties of guava, some with yellow skin, some with green and some with pink. Some with whitish flesh and some with shocking pink flesh. Some round like and apple and some pear-shaped. What all guavas share is their taste, and even more so, their aroma.

Guavas are strongly aromatic, sometimes alarmingly so. Like most aromas, the smell of ripe guavas is very difficult to describe - it's slightly sweet, very flowery, and heady - sometimes almost too much so. The smell of guavas can be overwhelming. However it's described, the characteristic smell of guavas is utterly unique - there's no other fruit that smells like it - and once known, the aroma will never be forgotten. It's one of the most evocative smells of the tropics.

To regular readers of Flavors of Brazil it must seem that every time there's a post on the blog about a Brazilian fruit it's called a "superfruit" somewhere in the post. So, this time we promise not to use that  word in discussing guavas. Nonetheless, the guava is an extremely healthy fruit and has a great number of valuable nutritious properties. One guava, for example, has five times the vitamin C of an orange of similar size. It also has high levels of calcium, something that isn't characteristic of fruits in general. It's a valuable source of vitamins A and B, phosphorus, potassium, iron, folates, and nicotinic acid. In addition, it's very high in fiber and low in calories (about 25 calories per whole fruit). To top it all off, it's said to be helpful in lowering cholesterol levels, in fighting cancers with its antioxidant properties and helps boost the immune system. Maybe this one should be called a "super-duperfruit."

In Brazil, guavas are available year round and are eaten raw in the hand, or peeled, sliced and added to salads and fruit salads. Most of the commercial harvest, though, goes into the preparation of guava juice, guava pulp or it is cooked down and strained to make guava pasta (goiabada).

Guavas are at their best when they are very ripe, which only takes a few days at home. Guavas are increasingly available in North American and European markets and supermarkets, so if you want to try one pick one that is umblemished and still hard. Let it sit at room temperature in the kitchen for a few days, or until the fruit yields to gentle pressure from your finders. You can wash it and eat it all (the peel is edible, like an apple or pear is, but some people find it bitter) or you can scoop out the pulp with a spoon and eat only that portion. Guava flesh has an appealing grainy texture, somewhat like a pear's, and the seeds, which are numerous, should be swallowed with the pulp, or strained out in a sieve. Don't try to crack a seed with your teeth - it's the teeth that will crack, not the seed!

As usual, we'll carry on with Flavors of Brazil's exploration of the guava in the coming days with some recipes which call for "super-duper" guava.


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  2. Psidium guajava Linn is a small semi deciduous tropical tree commonly known as guava or ‘Amrood’ in north India and is widely grown throughout India for its fruits. The trees are generally small and can be easily grown in your backyard. Guava trees are easily recognisable. They can take as less as 2 years to bear fruits. Guava tree is considered sacred and is often used in religious ceremonies in India plants Guava trees in their projects. Grow-Trees has several planting projects across India, having planted over 530,000 trees. Plant Guava trees with at Rs. 60/- per tree and help eliminate global warming.

  3. I was about to trash my Guavas because of the pungent smell - never had this fruit before. Thanks for the info!

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