Tropical guavas (Psidium guajava) are a unique fruit due the variability of both the fruit and the plant itself although they are all the same genus and specie. Some variability is common in fruiting plants due to cultivar or variety differences, but the variability seen in the tropical guava is somewhat unique. Generally cultivar or variety differences occur in each plant that is grown by sexual reproduction (grown by seed) but tropical guavas have definite traits that carry from seedling to seedling and they can be grouped into different categories based on these traits.
One of the divisions can be made regarding the fruit itself and this is weather the guava has fruit that is considered a "dessert type" guava or a "Philippine/Vietnamese type" guava. Dessert type guavas are the most popular type of guava in Hawaii and Mexico. These fruit generally begin dark green in color and ripen to have a yellow skin. (There is one exception within this group which is a sub-group frequently referred to the "Malaysian Red" or "Thai Maroon" guavas.) The fruit can vary in size from a few inches in diameter, up to the size of a small orange. Generally they contain many hard seeds (except for one cultivar which is "seedless"). The color of the flesh of the fruit can be red, white, pink, or a creamy yellow. Although these guavas can be eaten hard and unripe when still green in color, they are generally eaten when yellow in color, soft ripe and have a very soft, smooth consistency to the flesh of the fruit and a sweet flavor. They have a very strong, distinctive odor when ripe that some people love and some people hate.
The "Malaysian Red" or "Thai Maroon" guavas
The "Malaysian Red" or "Thai Maroon" guavas are a subgroup of "dessert" type guavas that have several unique characteristics. Grown from the seeds on one of these fruit, some seedlings will maintain these characteristics while others will look like the more typical tropical guavas. The young fruit of the "Malaysian Red" or "Thai Maroon" guavas start bronze-red in skin color and ripen to have a dark reddish skin. The flesh color is always dark red. The plant itself also is quite unique in appearance. The leaf color is greenish on the top and red underneath. In the winter, the entire leaf turns dark red in color. The flowers are pink in color. This subgroup varies from all other tropical guavas which have green leaves and creamy white flowers.
All other Tropical Guavas except "Malaysian Red" or "Thai Maroon" guavas
The "Philippine or Vietnamese type" guavas look like the typical green leafed "dessert" type tropical guava, however the fruit is quite different. the fruit is much larger and can grow to the size of a soft ball or grapefruit. The skin color stays green even when ripe and the fruit never gets soft and creamy. The flesh color is always white. The fruit has no strong fragrance or odor. This fruit is eaten crisp and has a mild sub-acid flavor.
All Tropical guavas are similar in their growth habits and cultural requirements. Although they can grow to be 15 plus feet tall, I prefer to keep them pruned into large shrubs, 5-8 feet tall to make picking fruit easier. They can withstand temperatures to 28 degrees F before damage occurs to the foliage and older plants can survive lower temperatures, but below 25 degrees, death is a strong possibility. Their water and cultural requirements are similar to those of citrus, with a need for trace minerals to be included in the fertilizer regime. Watch for pests like woolly whitefly and brown scale (similar to citrus in this regard) and treat as needed.
Fruit is typically ripe starting in late fall, usually around Nov. or Dec. As the winter temperatures get colder, immature fruit stops ripening and is held onto the tree until spring when temperatures start to warm. Immature fruit that remained on the plants through the colder months of winter usually ripen Feb.- March when the crop is usually finished. Sunburn may occur on fruit if temperatures get hot before the fruit is removed in the spring.
Like most fruiting plants, seedlings are variable, although "dessert" type guavas produce "dessert" type guavas and "Philippine or Vietnamese type" guavas produce "Philippine or Vietnamese type" guavas. Grafting or air-layering are asexual propagation techniques that are used to produce cultivars that are "true". Everyone has different taste preferences and favorite guava varieties, but my favorite guavas include "Indian White", "Uma" (pink) and the "Malaysian Red" or "Thai Maroon" guavas.
8 egg whites 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar 1/2 cup white sugar 3 drops red food coloring (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Prepare three 9 inch cake pans by lightly greasing them, dusting with flour, and shaking out the excess.
Sift together the flour with 2/3 cups of sugar, the baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together the oil, water, nectar, yolks, vanilla, and lemon zest until well combined. Pour the yolks into the flour, and mix until the batter is smooth, mix in food coloring until desired shade is reached. Beat together egg whites with the cream of tartar in a clean bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add the 1/2 cup of sugar, and beat until stiff. Gently fold whites into batter. Pour into prepared cake pans.
Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Run a metal spatula or small knife around the edges of the cake to loosen, and allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack.
This column would be more fun if other Chapter members participated in the “Fruit of the Month” column by submitting short articles, personal experiences and successes, favorite varieties or recipes for the fruit that is featured in that months newsletter. Next month (February) the featured fruit will be Favorite Tangarines/Mandarins. The deadline to submit information for the newsletter is the 2nd Wed. of each month. Information for the newsletter should be sent to our newsletter editor Fang Liu at the following email address: Editor@CRFGSanDiego.org. The forums on our Chapter’s website is also a great place to ask questions or to post comments or recipes for the fruit of the month.