You break the surface. The salt has caused your mucous membranes to leak copious amounts of gunk into your face mask; you wipe it away as you hand your fins up to the deckhand, and haul your body up out of the water, up the ladder. The heavy air tank causes you to waddle around the deck to your assigned seat, where you sit down carefully, and ease the weight of the tank off your back. Close the valve and vent the regulator, now, check your final pressure and note it in your log.

Wipe the warm salt water out of your hair, feel it drying on your skin, look up at a brilliant blue sky and smile, remembering the dart of fishes and the drift of rays, and the dark shadow of a reef shark in the murky blue distance. Sit back and relax on the long trip back to Kona.

Hit the pier, dump your bags in the back of the car and drive, drive alone and listen to soaring music, bone-tired but exultant. Park. Elevator. Up. Exit onto atrium level six, green tree-fronds a specialty.

Open the door, and walk into a blissfully air-conditioned hotel room. Go to the microfridge and take out the water of life, shimmering brilliant magenta as you pour it into a glass. No ice.

The deck now, with cigarettes. Put your feet up on the rail, ease back in the chair, look out on the boats in the bay, the aqua-blue coral reef, the beach and the coconut palms and the girls. Light up and take a sip, feeling the brilliant sweetness course down your throat, and laugh cockily, knowing perfectly damned well that you are the single luckiest bastard on the face of the planet, here in the little piece of Paradise you've rented.

Know the nectar of bliss that is guava.

And later, in the dark, with vodka.

In the Thai language, guava are known as farang, which is also the word for foreigner or westerner, so when I, a farang, ate a guava, people giggled. The guava I ate in Thailand were green and not very sweet or tasty. I didn't like them much, so I didn't eat them much, obviating one common reason to be giggled at by the Thai. They had plenty of other reasons to laugh at me.

Guavas are a sweet, fragrant fruit grown on small trees in tropical regions. They are thought to be native to the large rain forest area between Mexico and the northern part of South America. Preserved guava seeds found at ancient Peruvians ruins indicate the guava was cultivated there many centuries ago. Early traders spread guavas to the Caribbean islands and later to Hawaii, Florida, and California in the 1800s. The traders also transported the fruit back across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe, India, and Egypt. Today, guavas are grown extensively throughout the tropics in Mexico, Central and South America, and on islands in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean. On some Pacific islands guavas grow so well that they are considered a weed.

Guava trees and fruit

The guava tree is an evergreen small tree or shrub. It has a characteristic copper-colored bark on its slender trunks that peels to reveal a green undercoat. The trees are well suited to a mild tropical environment and will be killed by either frost or hot temperatures. In warmer regions they produce guava fruits two times a year, once between August and September and again between February and April. White flowers are produced and pollinated by honeybees during May and November. Mature trees can produce 300-400 fruits per season. Fruits tend to be harvested and shipped while they are still unripe as ripe fruits bruise easily.

There are many different varieties of guava with different characteristics. The size of the fruit ranges from the size of a golf ball to the size of a very large lemon. It can be round, oblong, or pear-shaped. The thin skin can be yellow, green, or red and the flesh can be white, pink, or red. The most popular variety of guava, the common or lemon guava (Psidium guajava), looks like a large lemon and has a yellow/pink skin with bright pink flesh. The other main variety of guava is the strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum), which is golf ball size and has a red skin. The fruits have two types of flesh; a firmer flesh on the outer section and a softer flesh on the inside, somewhat resembling a cantaloupe. Depending on the variety, there may be small seeds in the softer flesh. Guavas have a mild sweet flavor that is similar to strawberries or other tropical fruits like papaya.

What to do with a guava

When shopping for guavas, try to find ones that are slightly soft to the touch like a ripe peach or avocado. Smell them too, ripe guavas will have a pleasant, tropical scent. Also look for fruits that are uniformly light yellow, as green guavas are under-ripe and will have a bitter taste due to high levels of tannins. If there are no ripe guavas, you can ripen one by placing it in a paper bag at room temperature for a couple of days. Guavas can be stored in the fridge for several weeks. Canned guava can also be found in Asian or Hispanic markets.

Guavas are best eaten raw, simply slice one in half and cut into pieces. You can eat the skin and seeds of the varieties sold in stores. Guavas are also commonly cooked which helps to eliminate their strong odor some find unpleasant. Guava juice and nectar are extremely popular as a refreshing cold or frozen drink or in mixed liquor beverages. Guava paste and jelly are also popular in many countries as a sweet. Guavas freeze and can well and are used in all sorts of recipes, including pies and cakes, jams and chutneys, and puddings.

Guavas have a large amount of vitamin A and pectin, which is a soluble fiber. The edible skin is extremely rich in vitamin C, containing even more than an orange. Indigenous people of the rain forest region use guava leaves to treat various gastrointestinal ailments, especially diarrhea. Leaves from guava trees were recently discovered to contain flavonoids and antioxidants, which may explain their healing properties.
The Joy of Cooking, revised edition, 1997

Gua"va (?), n. [Sp. guayaba the guava fruit, guayabo the guava tree; prob. fr. the native West Indian name.]

A tropical tree, or its fruit, of the genus Psidium. Two varieties are well known, the P. pyriferum, or white guava, and P. pomiferum, or red guava. The fruit or berry is shaped like a pomegranate, but is much smaller. It is somewhat astringent, but makes a delicious jelly.


© Webster 1913.

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