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?
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….
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
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!