James Wong's - Homegrown Revolution

CHILEAN GUAVAS

Posted on: November 8th, 2012 by James Wong 17 Comments

Queen Victoria’s favourite fruit, these intensely fragrant berries somehow manage to combine the flavours of wild strawberries, pink guavas and a hint of candy floss. Easily the ultimate foodmile-free exotic fruit!

WHAT ARE CHILEAN GUAVAS?

MY FIRST CHILEAN GUAVA HARVEST IN SEPTEMBER (I WAS SCOFFING THEM UNTIL YESTERDAY!)

Hailing from the wilds of Southern Chile, these impossibly exotic mini-guavas were surprisingly once commercially cultivated all over the South West of Britain in Victorian times. Yet fast forward 150 years and the  only mention of this popular ornamental plant’s berries in gardening texts usually refers to how to get the stains out of your patio!

Funnily enough that doesn’t stop specialist food importers flying them in from the other side of the planet, labelling them as a ‘tropical’ fruit & charging a small fortune for tiny punnets. Strange really since they might already be sitting planted in the back gardens of the customers who pay through the nose for them. :)

A GUAVA BY ANY OTHER NAME….

FROM TOP LEFT: ‘TAZZIBERRIES’ FLOWN IN FROM AUSTRALIA, CHILEAN GUAVA AND QUINCE IN SYRUP AT A SANTIAGO FARMERS’ MARKET & MY UK HARVEST. TRICKY TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE HEY?

Enterprising Aussie growers have now rebranded the fruit  as”Tazziberries” and Kiwi farmers are fighting back with the equally catchy “New Zealand Cranberries”. In their native country of Chile too there is keen interest in turning this common woodland berry into a major global crop, where they are simmered up into all manner of syrups, jams & liqueurs – often combined with fresh quinces. Yet with the plants positively revelling in the UK’s cool, maritime climate – they after all hail from a similar region to the monkey puzzle tree – why on earth has it taken us Brits so long to catch on to their charms?

HOW TO GROW CHILEAN GUAVAS

WITH STUNNING, SCENTED FLOWERS & SHINY EVERGREEN LEAVES, NO WONDER CHILEAN GUAVAS ARE ALREADY A POPULAR ORNAMENTAL PLANT. WHO KNOWS? YOU MIGHT HAVE ONE IN YOUR GARDEN ALREADY!

Chilean guavas can be grown just like their relatives the blueberries, albeit being far more high-yielding and less fussy about the ericaceous (acid soiled) growing conditions that their super-fussy, super-fruit cousins demand. They have evergreen leaves and deliciously fragrant lily of the valley-like flowers & are even ignored by birds that would otherwise decimate a blueberry patch. Could it get any better?

Their only let down is their slight frost sensitivity, so if you are gardening up North site them in against a south-facing wall and drape them in a layer of horticultural fleece when hard frosts are forecast. If you are a nervous disposition, you can even give them a home in a pot on a sunny patio and bring them a home on a covered porch or cold greenhouse over winter.

CHILEAN GUAVA RECIPES

With a exotic fragrance and familiar strawberry-like fruitiness, Chilean guavas are one of the most versatile berries in the kitchen – not to mention my favourite fruit. I love munching them straight off the plant, studding them through cupcakes, simmering ‘em into jams or plopping ‘em into booze with generous sprinkle of sugar to make truly heavenly liqueurs.

AUTUMNAL FRUIT SALAD WITH CHILEAN GUAVAS

This is so simple it really doesn’t need a recipe. Just tumble the Chilean guavas with a mix of whatever fruit you fancy (here I have used homegrown inca berries and cocktail kiwis) over some really good quality Greek yoghurt, drizzle over some honey & attack with a spoon. True autumnal bliss.

CHILEAN GUAVA HOTCAKES  

With vanilla ricotta & Chilean guava-scented maple syrup

A super-simple twist on the classic blueberry hotcakes, simply press a few fresh berries into the batter of these door-stop-thick American-style pancakes as they cook. True heaven doused with a maple-syrup scented by a quick simmer with a scattering of any extra berries that didn’t make it into the hotcakes.

For the full recipe check out my new book Homegrown Revolution

RUMTOPF WITH CHILEAN GUAVAS

In their native Southern Chile, the most popular way to enjoy these little berries is steeped in a sugary blend of rum & sliced quinces – an interesting fusion of the region’s German & Spanish foodie heritages. All you need to do is fill a Kilner jar with layers of sliced quinces & sprinklings of guavas (all whatever fruit you fancy) and top up with a mix of 1 part sugar diluted in 3 parts rum. Leave to sit in a cool dark place for 6-8 weeks and scoff spooned over a decent quality vanilla ice-cream.

For full instructions on how to grow, cook and eat Chilean guavas check out pg 259 of my new book Homegrown Revolution!

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17 Responses

  1. Such a lot if info herre, really enjoyed reading the recipes and will be growing these ( I already have your book) and will be trying them out on our guests at http://www.jinlye.co.uk I will give you the credit for them Keep doing what your doing

  2. celeste says:

    Gracias,han sido muy interesantes las explicaciones y muy buenas las recetas. :)

  3. Lesley Jones says:

    Attended your incredibly inspiring talk at Writtle Ag last night. Immediately went to your website. I’m really interested in the Chilean Guavas, could you please suggest what variety is best as there seems to be a few to choose from. Have dropped many hints already for christmas book present!
    Much appreciated.
    Lx

    • James Wong says:

      Thanks! Yes there are an increasing range of varieties of Chilean Guavas to choose from.

      The ones in this blog post are mainly the straight species, not a named variety. Although the colourful leaved ‘Flambeau’ is said to be the hardiest & is definitely very eye-catching (if a little gaudy).

      At the moment I’m very excited though about a new (as yet unnamed) variety that is launching next March. It has flowers and fruit up to 50% bigger and with a good flavour too. Watch this space for updates!

      • Paul Barney says:

        Our variety ‘Villarica Strawberry’ is a hardy form collected from Pucon in Chile in 2000. It has the same leaves as ‘Flambeau’ but is a better fruit producer. After many years trials, it has proved hardier than the common form.

  4. I was at the talk too (it WAS great) and I fancy growing this. My soil is acid but gravelly and free draining. I’m a bit worried it might be too dry for this plant. How drought/neglect tolerant is it, please James? Looking forward to the new variety.

    • James Wong says:

      Thanks! Neglect-tolerant yes indeed, but the bushes do require high moisture levels during hot weather to avoid aborting their fruit (although the plants themselves will survive even quite severe droughts). How about digging in plenty of organic matter into the ground to help improve water retention? If not, maybe a pot in semi shade?

  5. Patricia Barr says:

    I bought a small plant four years ago and took lots of cuttings from it. They are very easy to propagate. I kept them in pots in a cold greenhouse for two years and they flowered and fruited very well. Lovely tasting little fruits. Then, wanting to use the space, I decided to plant them in a fairly sheltered bed in the garden. They all died following keen frosts, so I would definitely recommend growing them in pots that you can bring inside for the winter..

    I love your book and plan to try other fruits and veg, but would just like to mention that living in London, you have a far milder climate than most of the rest of the country. I have grown several of the other plants you say are easy, but have found that while it is easy to start them off, quite a few of them are only happy in the greenhouse and struggle when planted outside. I still enjoy growing something new though and look forward to getting some fruits off the Isai kiwi I bought after attending your talk in the Midlands last year.

  6. Paul Barney says:

    Hi James,
    I was just wondering if you had some good info regarding it being Queen Victorias’s favorite fruit? All I know is that there was a plant at Buckingham Palace. Apart from late it is most here say.
    All the best
    Paul

  7. Peter Rose says:

    Hi James,
    Saw your piece in ‘The Garden’ and hot footed it to your web site (great photos by the way…).

    I couldn’t find much info on the large fruited variety ‘Ka-Pow!’ that you recommend in your RHS article Do you have any pointers on where / when it’ll be available please?

    Regards,
    Peter

  8. Sue Irving says:

    Is it sufficient to buy one guava plant or do I need to get a male and female plant? Also, would there be a harvest in the first year? (I bought a gojiberry bush 4 years ago that has grown well, but is still not bearing fruit, so I am now looking for bushes that ideally offer a harvest in the 1st year. Anything suitable in your new range?)
    Also, can the cocktail kiwi plant grow in pots if I don’t have a south facing garden? (Many plants seem to like my unheated conservatory – I currently have a cape gooseberry plant that has developed fruit over winter…)
    Thanks for your help!

    • James Wong says:

      Yes, unlike pretty much any conventional berry crop Chilean guavas can bare a (small) harvest in the first year, which is pretty amazing for a plant supplied in a 10cm pot! They are self fertile too, so in theory just one plant would do, however pollination is far more efficient if your plant has a friend nearby – meaning harvests are significantly increased.

      As for kiwis, I have mine in large pots placed against a West-facing wall and they are really happy. All fruit are likely to taste sweeter on South-facing walls because sugar content is pretty much directly proportional to the UV light levels, however it is by no means essential to growth. I have seen cocktail kiwis fruiting even on a North-facing wall in a truly lack lustre summer.

  9. Hello, we are a fruit export company in Chile and we are beginning to export chilian guava, also known as murtilla, and we would like to contact you for further information available in UK or Europe market. I’ll wait your comment. Greetings!!

  10. Helen Edwards says:

    Just received my plant today I am well pleased and look forward to the fruit, my only problem is do I need to plant it in ericaceous compost for the best results as I plan to keep it in a large pot ??? my Inca berries which I have grown now for many years do really well – love them.
    I tried growing the Cucamellons from seed this year no luck any tips ???
    Next I am going to order a mini kiwi.
    I love growing unusual things.
    Thank you James

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