Exotic foods are….. well, exotic. That is if they are not commonly grown in your backyard. They usually hail from distant lands and excite the senses. The unique tastes bring imagery of those lands and give us a taste of what it might be like to live there. One of the most popular exotic fruits is the guava.
The guava is commonly found in Mexico, Central America, South America, and areas of the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia. The true native area is thought to be in the Americas but so far research has not homed in on this. In the countries that do grow them you can find acres and acres of these trees. In fact, many begin to grow wild and have to be cut back and even destroyed so that it does not damage the guava crops. The trees can grow over thirty feet high and need lots of space or the fruit production will decrease and even go extinct.
They are easy to grow in these areas since they grow fast in the right conditions and can produce fruit as early as the second year from a seed. Since they can live up to forty years, a lot of fruit can be harvested even with the natural decline of production as the tree ages. There are some areas in the world that even harvest two crops a year from the trees.
As the tree grows and begins to produce, fragrant and beautiful flowers begin to appear all over the tree. The flowers alone are alluring and attractive which is probably why the bee is so eager to help spread the pollen. After about three months from flowering, the fruit matures. It comes in a variety shapes but all of them are circular is some form. The outside of the fruit is a coppery color when ripe. But most of them are sold in distant places and need to be picked green to ensure correct ripeness at the markets.
Harvesting the guava can be a delicate process. The fruit is very tender and can bruise easily. Nets are placed around the trees and catch the fruit as it is shaken gently from the trees.
The guava can be eaten raw and can be found in that form in salads. There is nothing wrong with that but the fragrance and the taste can be strong. Because of these you will usually find guava in the form of nectar, juice, syrup, or cooked in desserts. Guava flavored candy is also extremely popular.
The fruit is not the only part of this tree that is used. The leaves and wood are also sought after. The wood is not one you will find in demand to build homes or tables out of. But it is sought after for decorative purposes. Knobs for drawers and accent pieces are furniture is where you will find most of the wood. The leaves are popular in obtaining a black dye for fabrics and for medicinal purposes. Concoctions made from guava leaves have been known to give gastro relief, heal wounds, ease a toothache, cure a cough, and eliminate nausea.
With every plant there is a legend, and the guava tree does not let us down. According to a Filipino tradition there was a young boy that lived right outside a village. His family owned a large orchard with so many different kinds of fruit. It must have been a magical orchard because the fruit was always plentiful, delicious, and beautiful. New trees seemed to spring up overnight and even when other orchards were barren, this orchard always had plenty.
The little boy was known throughout the village for his kindness. Everywhere he went, he smiled and was kind to all. Everyone loved to come to this orchard to get their fruit. Not only was it delicious, but the enjoyment of being in the boy’s presence was what kept bringing them all back.
Now, there was one tree in this orchard that wasn’t so desirable. It was rumored to be poisonous. There was only one of this tree and the fruit was careful sidestepped when harvesting. One day an elderly lady came down the lane to the orchard and asked to purchase fruit. When the boy went into the orchard, he was met with a most unusual surprise. The entire orchard was fruitless. All the fruit that was usually plentiful was gone. The apple trees had no apples. The pear trees had no pears on its branches. No fruit. Except…… There in the midst of the orchard was the forbidden tree. It stood there in all its unpleasantness full of fruit. What was he to do? The kindness in the boy would not allow her to be turned away. So, he reached up and placed his hands on one of the fruit. He closed his eyes and prayed that the fruit would not kill and actually bless instead.
He took the fruit and gave it to the old woman. She looked at it and gingerly bit into. The taste was sweet and intoxicating. The prayer had been answered. It did not bring death. It brought happiness. So is the story of the exotic guava.
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