21 October 2010

Feijoa (Acca) sellowiana

It is at this time of the year in early to mid-autumn that a strange looking fruit called Feijoa comes into season.  I say strange because it is not a fruit which I am particularly familiar with, we do not have it in Turkey.  Here are some pertinent extracts from the Wikipedia website with regards to Feijoa.  The whole article can be found on this website: Acca sellowiana is a species of flowering plant in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae, that is native to the highlands of southern Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay and northern Argentina. Common names include Feijoa, Pineapple Guava and Guavasteen. It is an evergreen shrub or small tree, 1–7 metres (3.3–23 ft) in height. It is widely cultivated as a garden plant and fruiting tree and is a perennial.  The German botanist Otto Karl Berg named Feijoa after João da Silva Feijó, a Portuguese botanist born in the colony of Brazil. 

The fruit, maturing in autumn, is green, ellipsoid, and about the size of a chicken egg. It has a sweet, aromatic flavor. The flesh is juicy and is divided into a clear gelatinous seed pulp and a firmer, slightly gritty, opaque flesh nearer the skin. The fruit drops when ripe and at its fullest flavor, but may be picked from the tree prior to the drop to prevent bruising.

The fruit pulp resembles the closely related guava, having a gritty texture. The Feijoa pulp is used in some natural cosmetic products as an exfoliant. Feijoa fruit has a distinctive smell. The aroma is due to the ester methyl benzoate and related compounds that exist in the fruit.
It is a warm-temperate to subtropical plant that also will grow in the tropics, but requires some winter chilling to fruit and the plant is frost-tolerant.
In the northern hemisphere this species has been cultivated as far north as western Scotland, but under such conditions it does not fruit every year, as winter temperatures below approximately −9 °C (16 °F) kill the flower buds.

The fruit usually is eaten by cutting it in half, then scooping out the pulp with a spoon.  The fruit has a juicy sweet seed pulp and slightly gritty flesh nearer the skin. The flavour is aromatic and sweet. If the utensils needed to eat it this way are not available, the Feijoa may be torn or bitten in half, and the contents squeezed out and consumed. An alternative method is to bite the end off and then tear the fruit in half length ways, exposing a larger surface with less curvature and using one's teeth to scrape the pulp out closer to the skin. This method results in less waste of the fruit.

A Feijoa may be used as an interesting addition to a fruit smoothie, and may be used to make Feijoa wine or cider and feijoa infused vodka. It also is possible to buy Feijoa yogurt, fruit drinks, jam, ice-cream, and such in New Zealand. The Feijoa also may be cooked and used in dishes where one would use stewed fruit. It is a popular ingredient in chutney.

Fruit maturity is not always apparent visually as the fruits remain the same shade of green until they are over-mature or rotting. One usually may sense ripeness, however, by giving the fruit a soft squeeze; a ripe Feijoa will give somewhat like a just-ripe banana. Generally, the fruit is at its optimum ripeness the day it drops from the tree. While still hanging it may well prove bitter, however, once fallen, fruit very quickly becomes over-ripe, so a daily collection of fallen fruit is advisable during the season.

When the fruits are immature the seed pulp is white and opaque. It becomes clear and gelatinous when ripe. Fruits are at their optimum maturity when the seed pulp has turned into a clear jelly with no hint of browning. Once the seed pulp and surrounding flesh start to brown, the fruit is over-mature, but still may be eaten. Over-mature but not rotten fruits may be used to make a delicious juice very popular in places such as the Colombian Highlands.

The pink to white flower petals have a delightful flavor, being crisp, moist, and fleshy. They regularly are consumed by birds.

Figure 1:  Close-up of the Feijoa fruit.

Figure 2:  Fresh feijoa fruits at the local greengrocers.
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