Ahh, guava. Is there any other fruit out there as equally satisfying to pronounce and eat? We here at FruitStand would argue not.
But underneath its smooth sound – and slightly bumpier exterior – lies a complex fruit with a storied history and a wide variety of flesh and flavors.
Guava may have all the allure of an exotic fruit, but it may also be one of the world’s most well-traveled plants. From its origins in Central America to its present-day stronghold in the South Pacific, this subtropical plant has racked up more passport stamps in its humble history than most people.
It’s a little unclear exactly where it all started, but most experts point to Mexico – although there’s evidence of guava trees cultivated in Peru as early as 2500 BC. From there, the tropical fruit was taken up by Spanish and Portuguese explorers, who helped it seed throughout the South Pacific and, eventually, make it all the way to India.
And while different types of guava are still found in all those places today, the fruit has also taken up residence in Hawaii, Florida, California, the Caribbean, and South Africa, where it’s grown commercially. (One thing to be said about guava trees: They have great taste in geography!)
All of this traveling has led to plenty of tinkering which has, in turn, led to a number of different guava varieties sprouting up over the years – and each comes with its own unique twist on color and flavor.
From the outside, most guavas look alike regardless of the type. The subtropical fruit –which grows on a tree – is typically pear-shaped or round, small-ish (weighing just around 2 ounces), and sporting a bumpy green or yellow-ish rind, which is edible when the fruit is ripe.
Inside, the fruit is studded with edible seeds, usually clustered around its center, although some varieties are seedless. Its flesh can be pink to red, white, or yellow, and, indeed, different varieties of guava are classified by their interior color.
There are more than 10 varieties of red-pink guava, more than 12 types bearing white flesh and exactly one yellow-fleshed cultivar, the unique Detwiler, which was first developed in Southern California.
The quality of that flesh can vary in a number of other ways, as well. Most is thick and firm enough to eat in slices, like an apple. A lion’s share of guava is also sweet, although the fruit can veer into tartier territory. And a few special cultivars are creamier than tropical peanut butter.
Thankfully, the people in charge of naming such things realized all this variety may be confusing for a guava novice, and so many varieties are called after their prevailing taste or texture. Thus, we have strawberry guava, which tastes – as you may have guessed – like strawberry, and the citrusy-leaning lemon guava.
Just some of these other colorful cultivars include:
- Red Indian
- Miami Red
- Pink Indian
- Redland (Confusing, we know.)
- Miami White
- Behat Coconut
- Lucknow 42
- Lucknow 49 (Is it 7 points better?)
Other Guava Types
Variety may be the spice of life, but you’re much more likely to encounter these more popular types of guavas on your exotic fruit journey:
- Mexican Cream: A white-fleshed guava cultivar which sports a creamier texture when ripe. (Thanks again, guava naming people!) Its sweetness and softness makes it a popular pick for desserts.
- Red Malaysian: A favorite variety of many gardeners for the beautiful red leaves and pink flowers sported by this guava tree. (The fruit’s flesh is also red.)
- Tropical White: Once again, the name says it all. A white-fleshed variety with all the famous guava sweetness found in its softer inside.
- Giant Vietnamese: The largest iteration of the tropical fruit, making this white-fleshed variety the most popular choice for guava juice manufacturing.
- Pineapple: Despite its Hawaiian-inspired name, this cultivar is more typically found in South America – especially Brazil, Argentina and Colombia. Another white-fleshed guava, the pineapple variety is particularly known for its drought resistance.
- Ruby-X: It sounds like a superhero – and it may actually be one. This type of guava is known for its power to keep away fruit flies, thanks to its particularly thick skin.
- Thai Maroon: A worthy competitor of the Red Malysian in the guava tree beauty contest, this cultivar also rocks red leaves, pretty pink flesh and an especially nutrient-dense fruit.
No matter its flavor or flesh varietal, there are a few things psidium guajava does universally well.
Guava is packed full of pectin, the fruit-based answer to gelatin, making it a prime candidate for creating jellies, jams, marmalades and even candies. This special aspect of its flesh also makes guava a good base for sauce – which it often appears as in Indian and Pakistani and Pilipino cooking.
Nutritionally, all types of guava can also be counted on for their high dose of vitamin C. And even its tropical seeds are hard healthcare workers: guava seed oil has become a popular ingredient in culinary and cosmetic products everywhere, thanks to its levels of beta carotene, vitamin A and selenium. Now, that’s really sweet!