Community contributed by Glenn Teves, UH County Extension Agent
When it comes to an easy to grow fruit in Hawaii, guava tops them all. In fact, some consider it a weed that invades Hawaii forests, especially the strawberry guava, and natural enemies have been imported to bring it in check. Native from Southern Mexico to Central America, there are over 50 varieties of guava and they come in all shapes and sizes, from a cherry tomato almost to the size of softball. It first arrived in Hawaii in the early 1800’s, but is believed to have been grown by the Inca a couple thousand years ago.
And guava has got some power, and is often included among the superfruits along with wolf or gojiberry, elderberry, cranberry, pomegranate, blueberry, mangosteen, and noni due to its high antioxidant content. Just 100 grams of guava contains 700 mg of potassium, twice as much as banana, and 377 mg of Vitamin C, up to seven times more than a navel orange. There’s a lot of variability among cultivars in terms of nutrient and antioxidant content, but sour and darker red fruits are usually highest in both. Guava is relatively high in antioxidants including lycopene, polyphenols , and carotenoids. This is why guava is a must in every back yard.
There are two main types of guava, processing types and dessert or sweet types. Processing types are higher in nutrients, and are preferred for making juice concentrate, jams and jellies, while dessert types are higher in sugars. Processing cultivars include Beaumont, the father of all processing guava in Hawaii, and its seedlings Ka Hua Kula (The Golden Egg) and Waiakea, improved selections utilized for guava production in the state. Dessert types are many, including Holmberg, Indonesian Seedless, and also Ruby X Supreme, an introduction from Florida. Others include an excellent small sweet guava from Singapore, introduced by Dr. Richard Hamilton, and fairly recent introductions of two large white fruited dessert selections from Taiwan with thick skin that tastes similar to Korean pears. The wild types are by far the most sour and also great for juice concentrate, and jams and jellies. In Taiwan, fruits are bagged on the tree when young, and sold for high price. Although seeds have some variability, this is an easy way to propagate them since grafting can be a challenge. The flesh can be white, pink, yellow, and red.
Guava has its share of pests including fruit flies, spiraling whiteflies, and coffee scales. Of these, fruit flies are the most destructive and can rot all the fruits. Oriental fruit flies are more of a problem in the lowlands, while the Mediterranean fruit flies are a problem in higher elevations such as Kualapuu and higher. Some of the lighter greenish-yellow cultivars are more susceptible to fruit fly damage because the insects sense a color change and will sting them before they’re mature. Using fruit fly traps, with methyl eugenol for the oriental fruit, and med lure for the Mediterranean fruit fly, supplemented with GF 120 fruit fly bait can help to bring fruit flies under control. Trees can get of thirty feet tall, but pruning can keep the tree under control and fruits within picking distance.
Too much of a good thing is not good, and such is the case with guava, which can cause constipation. Used to your advantage, it can also cure diarrhea. Tips of the leaves are especially high in tannic acid and can be chewed to stop the flow of diarrhea. Thought to be Hawaiian folk medicine, this herbal medicine has been used by natives of Central and South America for centuries.
This is one of these fruit where you don’t have to look far to find something very nutritious; just watch how many you eat.