Origin of Guava
Central and South Americans have loved guavas for eons. For example, people of the Incas and Aztecs were well-documented guava lovers. Botanists point to Brazil and parts of Mexico as the fruit’s likely country of origin, though archaeologists in Peru found guava seeds dating back several thousand of years. Guavas, then, were likely cultivated alongside the civilization’s earliest crops of corn and beans.
Around the 1520s, Europeans discovered guavas crops in the Caribbean. Shortly thereafter, Portuguese explorers brought the fruit and many others to Goa. Spanish and Portuguese voyagers are also credited with guava’s introduction to Africa and parts of Southeast Asia. Sailors of the high seas valued the fruit for its vitamin C, as this nutrient debilitating scurvy at bay.
Today, guavas have spread all over the world. 2011 figures published by the UN’s Food and Drug Administration state that the largest guava producers are India, Pakistan and Mexico.
Availability of Guava in India
Guavas grow year-round in India with the exception of May and June. Peak seasons are August, November through December, and March through April.
The most prolific growing region is Uttar Pradesh, producing 486,700 tons of the fruit in 2013. The state’s city of Allahabad is particularly well known for its high quality guavas. Madhya Pradesh grows the second largest guavas, and Bihar, the third largest grower is known for its red-fleshed varieties. Other guava growing states are Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
India, being the top guava producer in the world, exports its fruits to several countries including the US, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands.
Where to find Guava in India
The markets in the north have the best dibs on guavas because of their proximity to the fruit orchards. Though it’s difficult to ship the North’s high quality guavas to distant regions, the south still receives the guavas on account of its own growing states.
Guava is a popular, common fruit all throughout India. Any produce market should stock the white flesh guava, pink flesh, and the occasional large (yet expensive) Thai variety. There’s a rare purple guava variety looming in some gardens, but it’s not common in the markets.
Checking for Ripeness in Guava
With a full spectrum of guava varieties, color is not always the best indicator of ripeness. Sometimes yellow signals over-ripeness, while other times green is under ripe. The best indicator is smell and touch. If the guava is hard like a golf ball, the fruit is not yet ripe. If it’s soft with a heady aroma and gives to the touch, it’s ready for consumption. Choose guavas with an almost velvety texture. Like mangos and bananas, guavas are still edible when small spots form on the skin. Wooden mottling is also common.
Ripeness is also a preference: some prefer crispy, tart and crunchy flesh like an apple’s, whereas others favor a creamier, riper and sweeter guava.
Taste of Guava
Fresh guavas taste mellow and mildly sweet. Its lack of acidity gives the fruit a musky taste reminiscent of an unsweetened white peach. Guavas resemble pears and melons with their understated smoothness, and the fruits possess hints of vanilla, menthol, and papaya. India’s winter crops bear the sweetest guavas.
Guavas are like coffee: the smell might be heavenly and enjoyable when sweetened, but just as some blanch at a strong espresso, others scratch their heads about the appeal of fresh guava. This disdain is especially prevalent among people who have only known sweetened guava derivatives like juice or candy; or, they had the unfortunate experience of eating an astringent underripe guava.
One has to appreciate subtlety to enjoy guava. For some, the fruit is an acquired taste. Though the taste is undeniably distinct, its flavors are subdued and less vibrant than say, a gorgeous sweet mango or attention-grabbing ripe pineapple.
Guava’s texture varies depending on the ripeness. When less ripe and crisp, the texture is like a grainier apple or pear. When ripe, the taste is creamy like a custard apple or banana Unfortunately, the otherwise pleasant texture comes with several white, small and rock-hard seeds that require spitting out or swallowing.
Nutritional Value of Guava
According to the USDA nutrient database, guava’s nutritional value per 100g of edible flesh is:
14.3g Carbs (11% RDI)
5.4g Fiber (22% RDI)
1g Fat (1% RDI)
.1g Omega-3 (10% RDI)
.3g Omega-6 (3% RDI)
2.6g Protein (6% RDI)
.1mg B1/Thiamine (6% RDI)
Riboflavin/B2 (4% RDI)
1.1mg B3/Niacin (8% RDI)
49ug Folate (12% RDI)
103.2ug Vitamin A (4% RDI)
228.3mg Vitamin C (304% RDI)
.7mg Vitamin E (5% RDI)
2.6ug Vitamin K (3% RDI)
18mg Calcium (2% RDI)
.2mg Copper (26% RDI)
.3mg Iron (1% RDI)
22mg Magnesium (7% RDI)
.2mg Manganese (8% RDI)
40mg Phosphorous (6% RDI)
417mg Potassium (9% RDI)
.2mg Zinc (3% RDI)
*For perspective, 1 guava weighs approximately 90 grams.
Health Benefits of Guava
Guavas have been used as medicine since their early cultivation in South America. A review of guava by B. Joseph and R.M. Priya states that guava’s traditional uses include as a remedy for malaria, gastroenteritis, vomiting, diarrhea, toothaches, wounds, ulcers, and vomiting. Amazonians gargled the fruit for inflamed lungs and, when chewing on a leaf concoction, for inflamed gums. Ancient Egyptians used guava as a cough sedative and to combat obesity and hypertension. Jamaicans use the fruits to dress wounds. Healers mashed and applied guava flowers to the eyes for sun strain and eye injuries.
Scientific studies support many of guava’s traditional uses:
--According to a 2013 study published in Fitoterapia, guavas possess beneficial flavonol glycosides that fight type II diabetes mellitus.
--A 2013 study published in Pharmaceutical Biology indicates that guava’s essential oils have anti-inflammatory properties.
--A 2012 edition of Cell Proliferation published a study revealing that guava extracts have anti-cancer effects due to their ability to induce cell death and reduce cancer cell proliferation in certain types of tumors.
--A 2010 study conducted in India and published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine affirms the fruit leaves are a potent anti-diarrheal agent, albeit one seldom prescribed by Indian healers.
--A 2012 study published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences affirms guava’s gastro protective benefits, and also points to the plant’s ulcer healing properties.
--A study published in a 2012 edition of Food and Chemical Toxicology shows that guava extracts had anti-inflammatory and inhibitory effects on apoptic dermatitis, thus supporting its use in treating wounds and skin ailments.
--A 2012 study published in Antiviral Research reveals that guava tea shows immense promise in controlling epidemic and pandemic influenza viruses based on tests against strains of H1N1 viruses.
How to Open/Cut Guava
Opening and cutting a soft-pulped guava is as simple as cutting it in half and scooping the flesh with a spoon. Guava’s skin is edible and requires no peeling. When eating a creamy ripe guava out of hand, it’s best to let the tongue do the chewing. Otherwise, a dentist visit might be required to fix the damage from those rock-hard seeds. Spitting out the seeds is a personal preference: some don’t mind swallowing them, while others can’t bear the thought.
When deseeding a firm, crisp guava, keep in mind that the seeds concentrate in the center of the fruit like a cucumber or apple. Thus, cut a guava into segments as one would for a pear or apple. Then, slice away the seeds from each wedge. Unfortunately, the sweetest and creamiest part of a guava is near the seeds, so it’s best to slice carefully and preserve the tastiest part of the fruit.
Another method of removing the seeds from a creamy, ripe guava is by scooping out the flesh in a small bowl and adding a small amount of water. Mush the flesh with the fingertips until it forms a runny paste, and then press the contents through a strainer.
To make sweetened guava pulp, de-seed the flesh and cut into cubes. On medium heat, boil with water and sugar until tender. Once cooled, blend the mix until sufficiently pulpy and smooth. Note: For every large guava, use 1/5 cup of sugar and ¾ cup of water.
|De-seeded, sliced guava|
Guavas are perishable, delicate fruits. If kept near 5C in relative humidity, the fruit may last up to 20 days. If storing already ripe fruits, the shelf life is a mere 5 days.
Freeze guava by removing the pulp and placing in ice cube trays or a freezer bag. Some choose to add ascorbic acid or syrup to enhance the flavor. Frozen pulp will keep for up to a year.
Guava Recipe Ideas and Uses:
A small amount of guava’s potent flesh goes a long way in flavoring drinks, desserts and sauces. Guavas also maintain their flavor when heated.
--Add guava chunks with bananas, mangos and pineapple for a tropical smoothie. Or, blend strawberries and mint. Guava pulp also work well in lemonade recipes.
--Make guava jelly by cooking the flesh with water, adding sugar, and preserving. Use this jelly as a layer in cakes or as filling in pastries. The high pectin content makes for a firm, well-set filling.
-- Add guava pulp as part of a marinade for tofu, seitan or TVP: Stir pulp with with tamarind paste, limejuice, soy sauce, tomato sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper, and maple syrup.
--Create a guava cake by folding the pulp into vanilla sponge cake batter.
--Use the juice as part of a dressing for fruit salads or leafy green salads. Use on salads that include mango, cashews, Asian-seasoned tofu, sesame seeds and orange slices.
--Make guava salad by tossing chunks of the de-seeded fruit with pine nuts, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lime, parsley, and mint
--Create a light, healthy guava soup: add 2 cups of fresh guava juice, Tabasco, mint leaves, sugar, pepper, and even a dash of vodka.
--Make tofu cucumber rolls with guava: cut guava and tofu into thin slices. Marinate the tofu and flesh guava juice, and then mix soy sauce, lemon, olive oil, sugar, and water. Wrap this mix in rice paper, and include other fillings such as lettuce, mango, peanuts, and thinly sliced carrots.
|Clever guava popsicles|
Fruits: Banana, mango, papaya, passion fruit, pineapple, pear, feijoa, kiwi, lemon, coconut, lime, orange, strawberry giant granadilla, soursop cactus pear, orange
Herbs, spices, and oil: peppermint, spearmint, basil, coconut milk, coconut oil, lemon juice, limejuice, lemongrass, ginger, eucalyptus, salt, sugar, vodka, rum, tequila, pineapple juice, cashew, macadamia nut, peanut, rosewater, vanilla, anise, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, licorice, orange juice, citrus zest, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, parsley, soy sauce, chili
Indians pronounce guavas as, “GOE-ahs” (like the state, Goa) whereas Westerners pronounce it, “GWAH-vah.”
Goans believe that guavas should not be eaten at night. While this credo sounds superstitious, it may be rooted in the fact that the seeds have a tendency to irritate the intestinal lining.
Segappu koyya, koyya (Tamil)