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Distant cousins: pineapple and strawberry guavas.

They're not two flavors of the same fruit. Pineapple guava and strawberry guava are two related but distincly different plants--and April's a good time to plant either one. Each will perform handsomely as an evergreen shrub or small tree. And both give you fruit rich in vitamin C.

Pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana, now often called simply feijoa) is easy to find in nurseries. Not a true guava, this hardy subtropical tolerates temperatures as low as 15[deg.]. It grows and fruits well in most of low-elevation northern California--from the cool-winter, hot-summer climates of Chico, Santa Rosa, and Fresno to the cool-summer fog belts along the coast.

Feijoa's gray-green foliage is felty white underneath. It grows quickly into an adaptable 10-foot shrub or 18- to 25-foot tree. Established plants are drought tolerant (if a large fruit crop isn't the primary goal) and thrive in full sun and reflected heat. They'll also accept partial shade and normal garden watering.

If yield is important, plant two or more shrubs as pollenizers, or use only the more flavorul, self-fertile grafted varieties such as 'Coolidge' or 'Pineapple Gem'.

For landscape purposes, unpruned or lightly shaped feijoa forms a large informal shrub, screen, or hedgerow. You can also shear it as a formal hedge, train it as an espalier, or prune it as a small tree with single or multiple trunks.

Strawberry guava (Psidium littorale longipes or P. cattleianum), a true guava, is hard to find (in the San Francisco Bay Area, try specialty nurseries; in inland areas, special order). You can grow it or yellow-fruited lemon guava (P.l. littorale) in northern California's mild citrus- and avocado-growing climates: the temperate coast, the protected microclimates of the inland vallyes, and the thermal belts of the Central Valley.

Strawberry guava has leathery, glossy green leaves and a naturally graceful form similar to that of sasanqua camellias. It grows into an open 8- to 10-foot shrub or 10- to 15-foot-tall tree with lovely tan bark. With light pruning, you can shape it into an attractive solo specimen, a hedge, or informa espalier. As a container plant, it's well-suited to bonsai training.

For finest fruit and form, give it rich soil, heat, and ample summer water. Because plants may be damaged by temperatures below about 25[deg.], their best location, even in mild-winter climates, is a frost-free, sheltered spot near the house.

Fruits of both plants are delicious alone or in salads. Naturally high in pectin, guavas also make good jelly. Or you can whip the pulp into a tangy fruit drink. Feijoa's fleshy flower petals, also edible, can be tossed into fruit salads.

Pick fruits just before they're fully ripe and store them (up to a month) in a cool place until slightly soft and aromatic.
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Apr 1, 1984
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