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Feijoas! I am addicted to them!

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

The start of autumn (fall) always fills me with great anticipation. I love it as much as summer, maybe more, and as much as spring, and certainly more than winter. Along with crisp morning air, cloudless warm days and cooler night temperatures, it’s the produce which marks a definite seasonal change. Top of the list is apples, so crisp they spray juice everywhere as you bite into them, then there are pears, kiwifruit, tamarillos, passionfruit and feijoas. Now feijoas (often known as pineapple guava in the US)… I won’t beat around the bush – I am addicted to them!

Feijoa Tree

We used to eat bags of them when I was a kid. We’d scrabble around under the feijoa trees picking up any that felt firm, leaving the rest to rot, and take our horde to the back steps outside the kitchen and gorge ourselves. No knife, no spoon. Just bite into the astringent skin and suck out the contents. We’d munch up a bit of the skin, too, which seemed to balance the fruit’s sweetness. I don’t know what it is about home-grown feijoas, but they’re always smaller and sweeter than commercially grown fruit. We’ve got two baby trees now – they were about 30cm high when we brought them 18 months ago from the nursery – with about 30 feijoas between them. Next year we’ll get a monster harvest, I’m sure of it, then I’ll relive those childhood days.

They tell me that commercially-grown feijoas are never left to fall off the tree. The feijoa has to be treated carefully because it ripens from the inside, and it bruises easily, too. Pickers look for an abscission, a natural separation between the fruit and the stalk, which indicates the fruit is ripe and about to fall. Then they give the fruit a little nudge and collect it as it falls, avoiding bruising. If fruit is picked hard, it will never ripen. Firm feijoas will ripen after a day or two in the fruit bowl. If you’re not ready to eat them, store them in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. They also freeze very well – either peeled and kept whole, or chopped or pureed.

How do you pick a good feijoa? You can be sure that if they feel soft, they are past their best. A ripe feijoa should should yield a little to pressure, like an avocado. When you cut a feijoa open, the jellied sections in the centre of the fruit should be clear. If they are white, the fruit is not ripe, and if they are tinged with brown the feijoa is past its best. Perfection is a scented fruit with creamy-coloured flesh and clear juicy jellied sections. Mmmmm.

I love the tropical fruit scents which burst out when they’re cut open. Crisp and fresh like a Marlbourgh sauvignon blanc. And the taste, a heady mix of pineapple, banana, guava, melon and pear, with a sharpish lemony tang and lingering ripe strawberry taste. One is never enough. So just as well that this year the Feijoa Growers Association is predicting a bumper crop, thanks to our great summer weather. And eat plenty of them you should as they are high in vitamin C, and also contain anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

Here are three easy recipes to try, but feijoas can also be used in smoothies, in salsas and sambals, in muffins and cupcakes, in place of apple in apple cakes and sponge puddings, and believe it or not, they are great roasted around pork.

Four Fruit Crumble
Feijoa and Banana Crumble
Feijoas in Red Wine Syrup