Magazine article Sunset

Tropical Tough Guy

Magazine article Sunset

Tropical Tough Guy

Article excerpt

Tropical tough guy

Exotic and tangy-sweet, the flavor of pineapple guava fruit may remind you of a tropical paradise. But the native Brazilian plant (Feijoa sellowiana) is actually a very hardy (12| to 115|) subtropical evergreen shrub or small tree that's at home both on the coast and in the desert.

Its attractive shiny green leaves have fuzzy, silvery white undersides and add an interesting tone to any sunny or partially shady garden. And the versatile plant can be shaped into a large hedge, informally espaliered along a wall, or trimmed and shaped into a small-canopied tree.

Pineapple guava starts blooming in mid-to late spring and continues for a month or so. In very mild climates, trees may bloom and fruit year-round. The striking flowers are edible (fleshy petals have a sweet flavor). Use the petals or the whole flower in salads, to decorate cakes, or as a topping for ice crea.

The round to oval fruits--green or grayish green--range from 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches long and ripen between September and January. The fruit pulp is pale amber or pure white, depending on variety.

Pineapple-flavored with spearmint overtones, the flesh can be scooped out or sliced. It adds unique flavor to salads.

Which one should you choose?

A number of varieties have been developed over the years. Most bear fruit best in coastal climates, but a few produce well in hotter areas. In the desert, fruit are smaller and may have hollow spots.

The old standby and most widely available in nurseries is 'Coolidge'. Some nurseries also carry newer varieties, or you can order them by mail (see sources at right).

In humid coastal climates, 'Improved Coolidge' (also called 'Edenvale Improved Coolidge'), 'Edenvale Late', 'Edenvale Supreme', 'Mammoth', and 'Moore' are good choices. 'Triumph' is commercially popular because it stores well, but the flesh tends to be grainier than most. (Grainy flesh can occur in other varieties, too; its likely causes are plant variability and cultural conditions.)

'Nazemetz' and 'Trask' produce well in warm climates. 'Coolidge' also bears fruit in warm climates, but size is inconsistent.

To get a good crop of fruit from 'Mammoth', 'Superba', 'Trask', and 'Triumph', you need to plant them with a self-fertile variety. The other kinds listed are self-fertile, but they'll produce larger crops if you plant more than one kind.

For fruit production, water regularly

Although pineapple guavas are moderately drought tolerant, they need regular watering to produce hig-quality fruit. …

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