Garden Word of the Day
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Pineapple guavas are neither pineapples nor guavas, but they can make a good addition to your foodscape.
Distant cousin to guavas, pineapple guava (Acca sellowiana, or Feijoa (fay-zho-uh) sellowiana) is a member of the myrtle family. Native to Brazil and Argentina, it is well suited to the Bay Area’s hot summers and cool winters. It is somewhat frost tolerant. The edible flowers look like tiny versions of bottlebrush and have a cinnamon flavor. (Of course, if you eat all the flowers, you won’t get any fruit!)
Pineapple guava is a relatively slow-growing perennial evergreen shrub that can eventually reach a height and width of 10 to 15 feet. Leaves are green on top and silvery underneath, which looks really nice when a breeze comes through. Pineapple guava plants grow best in USDA Hardiness zones 8 through 11 and they need 50 chill hours each winter to set fruit (I get 300 in the Bay Area). If temperatures are above 90 °F for too long, fruit set can be reduced. Pineapple guava are very drought tolerant, but they do need to be irrigated as fruit is being produced.
How to grow pineapple guava
Growing pineapple guava from seed is a slow business. It can take a year for seedlings to show any real growth. Most pineapple guava trees are purchased as 1- or 2-year old plants. If you only have room for one specimen, make sure that it is a self-pollinating variety. Most pineapple guavas require a second specimen for pollination. They prefer partial shade, a soil pH of 5.5 to 7.0, and can tolerate some salt spray. They do not respond well to bright, reflected light, so installing pineapple guava next to a driveway probably isn’t the best idea. They can be grown in large containers, and they can also be espaliered or pruned as a small tree, or used to create hedgerows or windbreaks. There are several varieties of pineapple guava to choose from.
Caring for pineapple guava
One of the best things about pineapple guava is how little care they need. You can ignore them completely, once they are established, or you can give them a boost with these maintenance tips:
Harvesting the fruit
Pineapple guava fruit are egg-shaped and can be 3/4 to 3-1/2 inches long. The fruit is described as tasting like a cross between pineapple, apple, strawberry, guava, and mint. Fruit reaches full maturity (and the best flavor) in fall, but it bruises easily. Ripeness can be determined by giving fruit a gentle squeeze. Harvesting fruit too soon is a waste, since unripe fruit is bitter. Waiting for it to fall on its own usually means bruised fruit. Probably the best solution is to set up a net under the tree to gently capture fruit as it falls, but this isn’t alway feasible. Commercially, ‘touch picking’ is used. Touch picking means that if the fruit breaks free when you touch it, it’s ripe. Regularly checking for ripe fruit before it falls will reduce the number of bruised fruit. Some people eat the entire fruit, skin and all, while others cut it in half and scoop the fruit out with a spoon.
Pineapple guava no real pest or disease problems. Black scale and fruit flies may show up, but these shrubs are truly trouble-free.
Pineapple guava fruit does not ship well, so most stores never carry it. Adding these trouble-free shrubs to your foodscape means you will have a ready supply of delicious fresh fruit each fall for many years to come.
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