Growing Feijoa aka pineapple-guava

by Lala

This past spring I was introduced to two interesting new plants that are now in our garden. They are Feijoa (acca sellowiana) aka Pineapple Guava & Psidium cattleianum aka Cherry Guava (which I will write about later). The common guava is Psidium guajava, and all three plants are distant relatives of each other, in the myrtle family.

Feijoas are native to South America and are very popular in New Zealand, to such an extent that they are available there in supermarkets and just about every other house has one growing there. The market is developed to such an extent that there are many named varieties that have been developed and selected for size, taste and small seeds, over many years. The California Rare Fruit Growers Association lists 13 varieties in its Feijoa care and information page, including some developed in New Zealand. The New Zealand Feijoa Growers Association also lists 13 varieties, with some overlap with the CRFG list, grouping them into Early, Mid-season and Late varieties.

Feijoa tag

In South Africa the Feijoa and cherry guava are simply called “wild guavas”, according to the nurserymen. The updated scientific name is Acca sellowiana, but many nurseries still refer to it as Feijoa sellowiana. I’m told that both grow pineapple guava and uncultivated in parts of Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. The feijoas here haven’t been improved or cultivated at all, so the specimens at my local nursery were unnamed, ungrafted, seedling varieties. I wasn’t aware of their pollination requirements when I bought my first one. It was covered thickly in a cloud of pink and white flowers, but none of them set fruit. They all fell off after a while. Others, I ate. Feijoa flower petals are thick and spongy, just like marshmallows…and that is exactly what they taste like. I was sceptical when I read that the flowers are great in fruit salads, because very often so called edible flowers taste like soap.

Feijoa flower

I bought a second seedling feijoa after doing my research on pollination. When both were in bloom, I hand pollinated them. In New Zealand and their native South America, feijoas are pollinated by birds, or by large solitary bees, via buzz pollination. The usual honey bees and garden insects don’t do the trick. I looked up buzz pollinators in South Africa and I recall I came across a few references to those big, fluffy bumblebees. However, I decided to take matters into my own hands in case those bees didn’t come to visit. After a few weeks I was rewarded with a few of the little fruits you can see in the main image and below:

Feijoa fruit and leaves

Both little trees are doing well and I have found them to be drought hardy. They are in an area of the garden than I often miss when it’s time to water. Luckily we’ve been having more than enough rain recently. The trees grow quite large and can be trained into a single trunk, shade tree or into bushes and hedges. I have mine growing as bushes. The one below had shed some leaves but has now regained them.

Feijoa tree

They are going to be ripe in autumn, so hopefully I’ll be able to do a taste test video.

This is what the ripened fruit look like:
Ripe feijoa by Didier Descouens

Picture above is by Didier Descouens, via Wikimedia commons.

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