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Guava From A to Z: 26 Things to Know

Guava From A to Z: 26 Things to Know

From 'Armrood' to 'Zero point,' 26 interesting facts and figures about guava: varieties, nutritional facts and recipes to enjoy this evergreen Caribbean fruit.

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Armrood. On the Indian subcontinent and in some parts of the Middle East, the guava fruit is also called “armrood,” deriving from “armroot” which in the Arabic and Turkish languages means “pear.” Incidentally, another derivation of the term pear is "peru" (=guava) commonly used in countries bordering the Western Indian Ocean.

Beverages. Various interpretations of guava-based "agua" are very popular, such as the Mexican "agua de guayaba," a thirst-quenching non-alcoholic beverage prepared with pulp, lemon juice, water and sugar. On the other hand "pulque de guava" is an alcoholic drink containing guava pulp and the fermented sap of the maguey plant (an agave).

Culinary traditions. As well as being served fresh with or without sugar or honey, in some places it is consumed with salt and common pepper (Thailand) or Cayenne pepper, with a spice mix similar to Masala (Pakistan), then dipped into a sweet and sour mixture of ground dried prunes, salt and sugar (in East Asia, particularly Taiwan) or served with hot and spicy sweet and sour sauces like Mexican “chamoy.” In the Philippines, it appears in some versions of "sinigang," a stew whose main ingredient is tamarind. There are many desserts in which it features ... first and foremost the "casquitos de guayaba" of the Dominican Republic, also known as guava in spiced syrup.

Data. Over three million tons of guava are produced in India alone, which stands as the world’s leading producer; following at a distance are China, Kenya, Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil and Mexico. With 480 hectares entirely given over to the cultivation of guava, the largest plantation in the world was called "The Guava Kai Plantation" and was located on the island of Kauai (Hawaii). It has now been closed down.

Extinction. Despite being widespread, some guava species are rare and risk extinction. One in particular, the Jamaican guava (the Jamaican psidium or, to use its scientific name, Psidium dumetorum) is now completely extinct.

Feijoa. Also called the "pineapple guava," "Brazilian guava," "guavasteen" or "fig guava" (scientific name Acca sellowiana), is not really a guava. Nevertheless, it is delicious and tastes of guava, strawberry and pineapple.

Goiabada. A typical Brazilian jam, also known as "pasta de guayaba." It was first made in the Colonial period, when guava replaced quince. It is still prepared today both in its homemade version for family use or industrially made and sold in tins. While the Brazilians serve it with fresh “minas” cheese (this pairing is poetically referred to as "Romeo and Juliet"), in Portugal, it appears in the preparation of the "bolo de rosas" cake. There are many different versions: in Brazil, for example, "Romeo and Juliet" mainly refers to "goiabada cascão," characterised by the presence of whole guava pieces.

Health benefits. Guava juice and pulp make fantastic allies for combating glucose intolerance: apparently, they attenuate blood sugar peaks after eating. A high fibre content and antioxidant properties make this fruit a godsend for cardiovascular health.

Invasive. Since it adapts well to different habitats, the plant tends to be invasive, so much so that it represents a threat to the autochthonous endemic species of many locations: on the Galapagos Islands, for example, it appears on a special black list together with avocado, citrus fruits and raspberries.

Jams. Its high pectin content makes this fruit an excellent ingredient for jams (such as Venezuelan and Colombian "bocadillo") and jellies.

Kcal. One hundred grams of fresh guava "weigh" 68 calories.

Liqueur. Guava pulp is used to make " guayabines liqueur.” The recipe calls for the use of the Psidium littorale variety, also known as the “Peruvian guayabita,” which is similar to the common guava (Psidium guajava), but with a sourer flavour.

Myrtle family. Both the Psidium guajava together with all of its close “relations” and the Acca sellowiana (the aforementioned "feijoa") belong to the Mirtacee family.

Nutritional facts. The guava is one of the richest fruits in terms of antioxidants and vitamin C (100 g of guava contain as many as 228.3 mg of this vitamin compared to the 53.2 mg of an orange), as well as being an excellent source of magnesium, potassium, calcium, copper and phosphorus. The seeds are also healthy, being rich in iodine, vitamins A, E and those of the B complex.

Oil. An oil is extracted from guava seeds which is widely used in cosmetics (apparently, it works wonders against wrinkles!), as well as for cooking (it has a delicate taste and a vaguely fruity fragrance). Rich in vitamins A, C, beta-carotene, copper, zinc and selenium, it also contains linoleic acid.

Pakistan. Guava is the national winter fruit of Pakistan, while its summer equivalent is the mango.

Quality. A guava of excellent quality must be soft and yielding to the touch without being flaccid, while its skin must be even and devoid of dark marks, cuts or cracks, with a sweet, aromatic and citrussy fragrance. Avoid any fruits that feel too leathery because they are sure to be unripe (however… if they are not excessively unripe, they may be eaten cooked: go to the letter U for Unripe guavas). Similarly, do not purchase any with dark marks, bruised areas or that smell of fermentation.

Rolls. South Africans are particularly fond of "guava rolls," that is to say, guava pulp which is pressed, rolled out, dried and then rolled up to form a sort of Swiss roll with a pronounced sweet-sour taste.

Strawberry guava. Also known as "araçá," "cherry guava," "purple guava" or even "red cattley guava" (but erroneously referred to as "Chinese guava"), it is one of the many Psidium "sisters": going under the scientific name of Psidium cattleyanum, it is excellent for making jellies, jams and even as an ingredient in tomato sauces because it attenuates the latter’s acidity. Strangely enough, the seeds of this variety are also roasted and used as a coffee substitute.

Tea. Guava leaves are endowed with analgesic, astringent and antibacterial properties. Moreover, they contain carotenoids, polyphenols and quercetin, a substance that can alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Reasons that more than justify the use of a home remedy infusion made from the leaves alone (in Japan this brew is widely consumed to prevent diabetes, while in China it is believed to be depurative and detoxifying) or from leaves and fruit (in Brazil this type of infusion goes under the name of "chá-de-goiabeira").

Unripe guavas. Not excessively unripe guava fruit may also be enjoyed raw in salads (an excellent example is that of diced guava with Indian bean sprouts, sweet corn, red onion and black cumin), marinated and stewed (in Mumbai, for instance, a popular dish is "Amrud ki Sabzi," a guava curry also known as "Bhaji").

Varieties. We are spoilt for choice with 150 varieties differing in shape (oblong, oval or round), pulp and skin (green, white, yellow, pink, red, purplish), flavour (sweet, sour-sweet, sweet-citrussy) and texture (more or less juicy, with or without seeds). Of the commonest varieties, the following are worthy of mention: the Apple Guava (greenish-yellow skin, sweet orangey pink pulp), the Lucknow 49 (yellow skin, sweet white pulp), the Allahabadi Surkha (very sweet pink pulp and skin), the Hafshi (red pulp), the Allahabad Safeda (cream-coloured skin and white sweet-sour pulp) and the Chittidar (red speckled skin and a particularly sweet pulp).

Wood. On the Hawaii Islands, guava wood is widely used to smoke meat. It is also popular for barbecues, particularly at US BBQ competitions. By the way, in Cuba and Mexico, its leaves are also used for grilling purposes.

Xalxocotl. This is what the Aztecs used to call the guava; it means "sand plum."

Yellow cattley guava. This is the yellow variety (or "littorale") of the "cattleyanum" species, also known as the "yellow strawberry guava," "yellow cherry guava," "lemon guava" and "waiawī" (Hawaii): it yields larger fruits than the red variety, with which it shares its sweet-sour flavour.

Zero point. One hundred grams of guava pulp contain 0.95 g fat, of which 0.27 is saturated. Zero, on the other hand, is exactly what it “weighs” in terms of cholesterol.

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