The Feijoa, or ‘pineapple guava’, is a small sweet green fruit with a flavour unlike any other.
Although the plant is often referred to as pineapple guava it is in fact not actually a guava, however it is still in the same family.
Originating in Brazil, the plant itself is an evergreen shrub or small evergreen tree that can grow up to 7 metres tall, and can fruit from mid autumn to late winter.
The feijoas foliage is of an attractive luscious green on top with a silvery white on the underside. The plant has beautiful crimson and white flowers which some people have been known to eat due to their sweet flavour. Considering their overall appearance, some people have been known to keep feijoas in pots and even use them for windbreaks and hedges.
Feijoas come in a wide range of varieties each with their own unique textures, sizes and flavours.
Although some varieties are self fertile, many feijoa cultivars are not.
When purchasing the plant, it is a good idea to buy two different cultivars. This is because cross pollinated plants tend to give larger yields of higher quality fruit.
Make sure that the plants selected are suitable to your area to ensure that they have a healthy high yielding future.
Some of the different varieties have been listed below and can be purchased online at DaleysFruit.com.au.
Duffy: Non gritty, fruit up to 200gm, fruit in autumn.
Nazematze: Self fertile, very sweet high quality fruit.
Mammoth: Large round/oval fruit, self fertile. Fruit are soft, juicy and grainy in texture. Plants grow about 2 metres tall.
Unique: Self fertile, small growing, smooth flesh, early fruiting, produces a lot of fruit.
Triumph: Plump oval fruit, sharp flavour, not many seeds.
The fruit of a feijoa can come in many shapes, sizes, textures and flavours. They can range from round to oval or pear shaped, and can be gritty, smooth, sweet, subtle and just about anything in between.
The flavour of the fruit, although unlike any other, has often been compared to a tropical fruit salad amongst other things, being both sweet and mildly acidic. The fruit is encased in a green leathery skin containing tiny seeds covered in a soft jelly like pulp.
The tree of the pineapple guava can range from a small 1.5 meter bush to a 7 meter tree depending on the cultivar, and can grow to between 1 meter to 5 meters wide. This size of the eventual tree needs to be taken into strong consideration when purchasing a plant, due to the fact that some feijoa trees can grow far to big for a small suburban backyard whereas some can grow into a smaller, more manageable bush.
Although they prefer cooler weather, feijoas have been known to grow well in varying temperatures including that provided by the tropics. They can tolerate temperatures below 8 degrees Celsius and can also tolerate extreme heat, as long as their soil is kept moist.
Growing pineapple guava from seed is considered an unreliable method because the new plants are untrue to the parent plant and tend to vary in size and yield.
If you do choose to grow from seed, carefully collect the seeds from good quality ripe fruit and let them dry on a window sill. Plant the seeds about 1.5 cm below the surface in soft soil after the last frost, and make sure that they are well watered. When the seeds break the soil, water regularly to keep the soil damp, but avoid soggy soil.
Propagating feijoas from cuttings can be difficult and seems to have a high failure rate but it can be done.
Cut the stem below a node on a diagonal and remove all but a few leaves. Plant one third of the cutting in a pot containing fine well drained soil and keep moist at all times. Rooting hormone is advisable and definately improves the success rate. When the plant takes, transplant it to a more suitable location (see below).
The soil should be moisture retaining well drained, and rich in nutrients and organic matter.
A pH of 6.1 – 7.5 is usually preferred, depending on the cultivar used. It is best to ask your supplier when purchasing if you are unsure. Soils that are too solid compact will cause roots to bunch up, stunting the plants growth, so make sure that your chosen soil will not compact over time by adding organic matter.
Feijoas enjoy full sun to partial shade. Strong winds are not really much of a problem for established plants, and can actually help to strengthen the trunk and branches. Just make sure that when choosing a site, it has suitable soil. If the soil in your chosen site is not suitable, it will need to be excavated with better soil added.
Pests and diseases:
Diseases rarely effect these plants, but pests can be a problem.
Certain caterpillars such as loopers enjoy munching away at foliage, but most are easily controlled using pyrethrum or dipel.
Birds can definitely pose a threat as they love the sweet fruit and flowers. If they become a problem for you, a good quality fruit net should be considered. Occasionally, old dying leaves are mistaken for disease. This is normal and nothing to worry about.
Feijoas are actually very easy to care for. Potted plants need water daily in summer, and every few days in winter. In-ground plants require water every few days in summer and weekly / fortnightly in winter when there is a lack of rain. The soil should not be allowed to dry completely between watering.
Feijoas don’t need much fertilizer because they are slow growing plants. An occasional light application of complete fertilizer around spring and summer is usually suitable. Organic fertilizer is preferred as it produces a better tasting fruit.
Suitable organic fertilizers include compost and manure applied to topsoil, complete seaweed fertilizer and fish based fertilizer.
You can tell that a feijoa is ripe by very gently moving it from side to side. If it comes free of the tree it is ripe. Fruiting usually occurs for about a month or so, and different cultivars fruit at different times, thus buying two or three different kinds of feijoa can give you fruit for months on end.
All fallen fruit is ripe, but where possible, allowing the fruit to drop from larger plants should be avoided as this can easily cause bruising which ruins the flavour. All bruised and damaged fruit found on the ground should be discarded.
A good way to collect feijoas from larger trees is to hold a large sheet below the tree while the branches are shaken.