Feijoa (pronounced /feɪˈʒoʊ.ə/, /feɪˈdʒoʊ.ə/ or /feɪˈhoʊ.ə/)
Alternative names: English: feijoa, pineapple guava, guavasteen; Spanish: guayabo grande, guayabo chico, guayabo del pais (Uruguay); Portuguese: goiaba serrana, goiaba verde, goiaba abacaxi (Brazil)
Botanical name: Acca sellowiana (renamed from feijoa sellowiana in recent times)
Family: Myrtaceae (a family of flowering myrtle which includes guava, clove and eucalyptus)
Related species: Psidium guajava – guava , Eugenia cattelianum – strawberry guava
Origin: the cool subtropical and tropical highlands (less than 1000 m) of southern Brazil, Uruguay, western Paraguay, and northern Argentina.
History of cultivation: The feijoa was first collected in the wilds of southern Brazil in 1815 by German botanist Freidrich Sellow.
Credit for the introduction of feijoa into Europe goes to Edouard Andre, a noted French botanist and horticulturist. Andre was responsible for distributing the feijoa to Europe and North America after first growing it in his garden at the Villa Columbia on the French Riviera.
The German botanist Otto Karl Berg named feijoa after João da Silva Feijó, a Portuguese botanist born in the colony of Brazil. Feijo was director of the Natural History Museum at San Sebastian, Spain, during the Colonial period.
Feijoas were introduced to California around 1900. They were introduced into New Zealand in the 1920s.
General description: The feijoa is an evergreen, perennial shrub or small tree that grows to a height of 1-7 metres, and is grown as an ornamental or fruiting tree. It produces an attractive burst of red flowers in spring months. Leaves are coloured green on the upper surface and silvery grey on the under side.
The fruit are oval in shape and approximately 20mm to 80mm long and a dull green colour with a whitish bloom. The skin is thin and generally inedible, and encloses a whitish layer of granular flesh and a central mass of translucent jelly-like pulp. Each fruit contains 20 to 30 very small seeds.
Scent and taste: Feijoa fruit has a distinctive, potent smell. The aroma is due to the ester methyl benzoate and related compounds that exist in the fruit.
Seasonality: In the southern hemisphere, the season runs from late March to June. In California, the fruit is harvested October to December.
Varieties: There are more than 20 varieties of feijoa. See our Cultivars page for a brief guide.
Nutritional value (per 100g):
Energy 190kJ (45 calories)
Carbohydrates (Sugars) 10g
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid): 28 – 35 mg
Calcium: 4 mg
Phosphorous: 10 mg
Feijoa fruit contains saponins, which are chemical compounds known as glycosides. Many saponins are thought to have anticancer properties and may lower cholesterol. Other foods that contain saponins are lentils, soy and alfalfa sprouts. Feijoa fruit is a good source of the secondary plant metabolites known as flavonoids. Flavonoids are known to play an important role in the prevention of cancer, by inhibiting the growth of tumors. They are also an ally in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Commercial production: Commercial orchards exist in New Zealand, California, Australia, Chile, Columbia and other parts of South America. New Zealand is one of the world’s largest producers of the fruit with roughly 200ha in production in 2008.
Feijoa, the fruit: The fruit matures in autumn, and is green, ellipsoid in shape, and about the size of a chicken egg. It has a sweet, aromatic flavor. The flesh is juicy and is divided into a clear gelatinous seed pulp and a firmer, slightly granular, opaque flesh nearer the skin. The texture is rough, close to that of a pear or the closely related guava. The fruit drops when ripe and at its fullest flavor, but may be picked from the tree prior to the drop to prevent bruising. Once cut, the surface of the feijoa will oxidise and turn brown.
Taste/flavour: Feijoa tastes like a mixture of several other fruits, usually described as pineapple, guava, and strawberry. Sometimes the unique flavour is described as a combination of mint and pineapple. People who don’t like the taste liken it to medicine.
Storage & handling: Select fruit that is blemish free and emits a distinctive aroma. Feijoas are ripe when slightly soft (similar to a banana). In a freshly cut piece of fruit, this is when the jellied section is clear. If under-ripe, the jellied section is half white/half clear. If over-ripe, the flesh and jellied section will have started to turn brown. If the feijoas are not quite ripe, they can be stored in a fruit bowl for a couple of days. Once ripe, feijoas should be stored in the refrigerator. If not refrigerated, ripe feijoas only retain their best flavour for 2 or 3 days. After this, the flavour deteriorates without any change in the outward appearance of the fruit.
Uses: Feijoa is a versatile fruit, used in cakes, muffins, desserts, salsas, sauces, jams, jellies and curries. Commercial products include chocolate, tea, cereal, wine, vodka, preserves, sweets and cosmetic items. One of the biggest advantages of feijoa is that it can be frozen and cooked without loss of flavour or deterioration to its cream-coloured, fragrant flesh.
Cultivation: Visit our section on growing which includes different articles on cultivation: seedlings, pruning, pollination, nutrients and other conditions required to successfully grow feijoas.