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Tropical tough guy.

Tropical tough guy

Exotic and tangy-sweet, the flavor of pineapple guava fruit may remind you of a tropical paradise. But the native Brazilian plant (Feijoa sellowiana) is actually a very hardy (12| to 115|) subtropical evergreen shrub or small tree that's at home both on the coast and in the desert.

Its attractive shiny green leaves have fuzzy, silvery white undersides and add an interesting tone to any sunny or partially shady garden. And the versatile plant can be shaped into a large hedge, informally espaliered along a wall, or trimmed and shaped into a small-canopied tree.

Pineapple guava starts blooming in mid-to late spring and continues for a month or so. In very mild climates, trees may bloom and fruit year-round. The striking flowers are edible (fleshy petals have a sweet flavor). Use the petals or the whole flower in salads, to decorate cakes, or as a topping for ice crea.

The round to oval fruits--green or grayish green--range from 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches long and ripen between September and January. The fruit pulp is pale amber or pure white, depending on variety.

Pineapple-flavored with spearmint overtones, the flesh can be scooped out or sliced. It adds unique flavor to salads.

Which one should you choose?

A number of varieties have been developed over the years. Most bear fruit best in coastal climates, but a few produce well in hotter areas. In the desert, fruit are smaller and may have hollow spots.

The old standby and most widely available in nurseries is 'Coolidge'. Some nurseries also carry newer varieties, or you can order them by mail (see sources at right).

In humid coastal climates, 'Improved Coolidge' (also called 'Edenvale Improved Coolidge'), 'Edenvale Late', 'Edenvale Supreme', 'Mammoth', and 'Moore' are good choices. 'Triumph' is commercially popular because it stores well, but the flesh tends to be grainier than most. (Grainy flesh can occur in other varieties, too; its likely causes are plant variability and cultural conditions.)

'Nazemetz' and 'Trask' produce well in warm climates. 'Coolidge' also bears fruit in warm climates, but size is inconsistent.

To get a good crop of fruit from 'Mammoth', 'Superba', 'Trask', and 'Triumph', you need to plant them with a self-fertile variety. The other kinds listed are self-fertile, but they'll produce larger crops if you plant more than one kind.

For fruit production, water regularly

Although pineapple guavas are moderately drought tolerant, they need regular watering to produce hig-quality fruit. Depending on your climate and soil type, gives established trees a deep soaking every week or two during summer. Water young trees oftener and make sure you soak the rootball thoroughly. Fertilize trees once or twice during the growing season.

Most varieties are grafted onto a rootstock, which tends to sucker. Regularly rub off suckers below the graft union. To train trees, prune right after harvest. Since the wood is brittle, keep branches with wide crotch angles and prune off ones with narrow angles. You can also trim plants during the growing season, but avoid shearing off flowers and developing fruit.

To harvest, wait until fruit drops to the ground (you can shake the tree lightly to encourage more to drop). Collect the fruit immediately, so it doesn't rot.

Fruit eaten right after it drops has a tangy favor; if allowed to sit for a couple of days at room temperature, it loses the tang, and the taste becomes more perfumed. You can store ripe fruit in the refrigerator for about a week.

Where to order them by mail

Trees purchased by mail require a reestablishment period. Plant them in containers (if they don't arrive that way) and set them in a shady spot for four to six weeks (keep the soil moist); then give them half-days of sun for several more weeks. When the rootball holds together, plant in a permanent location.

Pacific Tree Farms, 4301 Lynwood Dr., Chula Vista, Calif. 92010; (619) 422-2400. Catalog ($1.50) lists 8 varieties.

South Seas Nursery, Box 4974, Ventura, Calif. 93004; (805) 485-7942. Free price list (send a stamped, self-addressed envelope) lists 10 varieties.

Photo: Close-up of grayish green pineapple guava fruit shows several stages of development. Center one is filled out and about ready to drop

Photo: Mail-order tree arrived with roots protected (some come in pots). Plant immediately

Photo: Fallen fruit, like the ones scattered under this shrub, signal ripeness. To prevent bruising, cushion fruit's landing or plant tree away from hard surfaces

Photo: Mildly spicy-sweet in taste, flower has spiky red stamens and white-and-scarlet petals

Photo: Sliced fruit is tasty accompaniment to cheese; most people prefer to remove the skin before eating
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:pineapple guava
Date:May 1, 1988
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