Feijoa -- A Tasty Landscape Plant

John R. Pyzner, Witcher, Anthony L.

Feijoa flowers add color to the landscape. The thick pink petals of the flowers are edible.

Ripe feijoa fruit remains green. The interior jellied section turn from white to clear when the fruit ripens.

Typical shape of feijoa bushes in landscapes. Harvesting fallen fruit is difficult due to low limbs.

Feijoa or guavasteen (Feijoa sellowiana) -- commonly called the pineapple guava -- is an evergreen shrub that sometimes reaches 10 feet tall. It is often pruned to form a dense hedge or used as a specimen plant. The small thick, dark green leaves have a silver-gray felt-like coating on the lower surface. The attractive 1 ½-inch wide light pink flowers have thick spicy sweet-tasting petals that can be added to salads.

Fruit production is generally not considered a factor when planting feijoas; however, the fruit can be tasty. The round-to-oblong green fruit are 1-3 inches long and can be eaten fresh or used as a garnish on food dishes. A common way to eat the fruit is to cut it in half, then scoop the contents out with a spoon.

The fruit generally ripens in October and November in Louisiana. Mature fruit remains green and falls to the ground and can be collected from the ground daily and kept cool until ready to use. The fruit can also be touch-harvested when the fruit releases from the stem when handled.

Fruit is at its best flavor when the jellied sections in the fruit are clear. The jellied sections will start to turn brown as it loses quality. Mature fruit can be kept at room temperature only 2 or 3 days before starting to lose flavor. The fruit can be kept for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator at 40 degrees F. without loss of quality.

Feijoas should be planted in soil with good drainage and a pH in the 5.8-6.8 range. Little information is available on fertilizing feijoas. Excessive nitrogen should be avoided, since it could cause excessive vegetative growth. A general guide is to apply 1 ounce of 10-10-10 fertilizer in March and June the first year. Increase the amount 1 ounce each year for the first 7-8 years. Maintain that fertilizer level in following years if the plants are making adequate fruit production. Feijoas can tolerate drought; however, adequate water should be provided to achieve best fruit size.

Plants for fruit production should be pruned to a central trunk with 3 or 4 main branches. Branches within 1 foot from the ground should be removed to allow easier access to the fallen fruit during harvest.

The feijoa is a subtropical plant with considerable cold tolerance. It is  considered cold hardy to 10 to 15 degrees F. Plants have survived 8 degrees F in northern Louisiana. Cold hardiness may vary among different plants.

Most feijoas planted in the landscape are seedlings with generally smaller and lower quality fruit than named varieties. Named feijoa varieties are often difficult to find. The best place to find named varieties is from nurseries that specialize in specialty or subtropical fruit. Coolidge is a self-fertile variety and is the most common named variety found. Mammoth, Nazemetz, Trask and Triumph are other varieties that are sometimes available.

Most feijoa plants are self-sterile or partially self-sterile and should be grown with another variety or seedling if fruit is desired. Even self-fertile varieties tend to produce larger fruit when pollinated with other varieties.

Feijoa is an excellent landscape plant that can add a subtropical flavor to the palate.

3/30/2005 11:01:41 PM
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