My grandfather used to tell me about the guava and tamarind trees they had in Brownsville, Texas. During the 1930’s however, locals were required to dig up and destroy their trees, as guavas attracted a type of fruit fly that was detrimental to other crops in the U.S. Only in Latin America were guavas still available as fresh produce.
Exploring Mexican markets, there is always a sour-sweet pong that tweaks your nose, and you can be sure, it’s guavas. A member of the Myrtle family of trees, guavas are native to Latin America, but are now grown commercially around the world in hot climates. Guavas have high pectin content, therefore guavas make great thick jams and paste style candies.
After an almost century long ban on the import of fresh guavas into the U.S., produce markets are occasionally offering the fresh guava fruit for sale. Look in the tropical portion of your produce market, and if you catch the whiff of guava aroma, it’s time to buy.
Look for fruit that is firm and unblemished. The blossom may still be attached to the end, which will be crispy and brown. Green guava fruit is too sour and hard to eat, but after a few days of sitting on your counter, the fruit should ripen.
The copious seeds found in the guava fruit are very hard and difficult to chew, and so should be scooped out before using the guava in any recipe. A few added seeds in your recipe are not unpleasant, but guavas have so many seeds that a dish can be overwhelmed with small pebble-like texture.
Guavas on their own can overwhelm you with seeds, pungency and a lack of flesh. But when incorporated into a dessert, made into a candy, or a syrup, guava flavor is unbelievably delicious. The intoxicating aroma can be addictive. I buy guavas just to keep in the kitchen. The aroma transports me back to adventurous days in Latin American markets, hot afternoons in cafes, and early morning coffee in my sister in law’s country home. For me, guavas are the aroma of Latin America.
Guavas in Syrup Recipe
- 1 lb fresh guavas, rinsed and cut in half
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1 Mexican lime, cut in half
Using a small metal spoon, scoop out the interior seeds of each guava half, discarding the seeds. Place the guava halves in a 1 qt saucepan, and cover with the water. Add the sugar and cinnamon, and squeeze in the lime juice, adding the lime rinds to the saucepan. Stir once, and then bring to boiling over a high flame. Lower the heat to simmering, and then cook for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove from the heat, cover, and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes before serving. Serve warm, or cool completely to chill. Store in the refrigerator.