The early Spanish explorers of the 1500’s found Strawberry Guava, ‘Acca sellowiana O.,’ growing as a native tree in America, where they were firmly established from Mexico southward to Peru. History records that Seminole Indians were growing guava trees in Northern Florida in 1816.
Strawberry Guava, ‘Acca sellowiana O.,’ can grow into trees 25 feet tall and frequently they are planted by homeowners as a privacy hedge that is easily trimmed or grown as an untrimmed windbreak. The guava tree can be trained to single or multiple trunks by pruning and will grow into an excellent specimen plant that is covered with exotic flowers during late spring. The wood is gray in color, and the grain is very hard and dense. The leaves are small, distinctly colored flat green, making the plants easily recognized at a distance.
The guava tree or shrub is slow growing and requires the planting of two plants for cross-pollination. The tree is cold hardy to 15 degrees Fahrenheit and is salt water tolerant. Bees and hummingbirds visit the red and yellow flowers, and the pollination visits result in a heavy fruit set.
The guava fruit is classified as a berry by most botanists, and it occurs in clusters with individual berries in sizes just under one inch. Each guava berry is covered by a rough rind and the pulp inside occurs in colors of white, pink, or red.
The guava tree grows best in partial shade in acidic soils. The plants are virtually disease free, and the fruit is usually harvested by shaking off the mature guavas when the color change occurs, then, they are collected onto sheets or tarps. The fruit will keep well in a refrigerator up to a week and can be peeled and eaten as fresh fruit, as a dessert, or in salads. If the fruit is dipped into diluted lemon juice, the color of the pulp will remain bright.
The fruit is commercially made into puddings, pies, juices, and jellies, and is a rich source of Vitamin A and C, as well as many beneficial minerals. The guava is grown commercially in Florida and California, and in many southern forests the shrub has become naturalized and mistaken as a native historical plant
“Guavaween” is a traditional central Florida event and fund raiser that is held every year to celebrate the advent of the guava corresponding to parades and festivals that are scheduled near Halloween at holidays Ybor City, Florida, an outskirt of Tampa, Florida. This “Guavaween” event is celebrated during the last of October each year.
There are many kinds of guavas; one tropical guava, ‘Psidium guajava L.,’ is an important crop in Hawaii, with fruit production exceeding 15 million pounds per year. These guava fruits are technically considered to be berries, and the trees grow in the wild on the island of Kuawai as a native plant. Before harvesting, the plants are vigorously pruned, fertilized, and irrigated. Fresh vigorous shoots grow in response to the pruning, and the delicious fruit forms within the flowers that mature on the new wood to form guavas and require about seven months to fully develop.
Most travelers to Florida last century will remember the many tourist stops on U.S. Highway #1 and U.S. 41 that have now been transformed into interstate highways I-1 and I-75. Tourist shops such as “Stuckeys” were loaded with souvenirs such as pecan logs. One of the most memorable items displayed for sale was guava jelly, jam, paste, or any other conceivable product that involved the use of the magical fruit of the guava tree. All these little jars of jelly and other guava products were visually stunning to the eye, revealing their contents in colors of mint green, red, yellow, and blue.