Feijoa – An Unassuming Fruit

By Matthew Charles- Jones, Yackandandah Sustainability

Smallish, pale greenish, unassuming and egg-like in shape, these fruit appear to be nothing remarkable. Last year I was lucky enough to eye-ball these ripening fruit on a shrub in our relatively new backyard, distinguished only by previously having had the most magnificent bearded white-ish purple flower.  But what a wonderful personal discovery it was.

Two weeks ago and despite this year’s cool summer, the fruit appeared again on our small shrub, without noise, without comment – no advertising, no health or nutritional claims and without fan-fare. This curious fruit provides great reward to anyone who chooses to split it open, to smell the rich sweet aroma, like kiwi fruit but somehow not.  An ordinary fleshy-appearance rather like cucumber, but somehow not.  And a taste of its own; unique, perfect and powerfully complex.

The fruit I describe is the Feijoa – Acca sellowiana, originally a small South and Central American tree, it can be grown as a hedge, is frost tolerant and enjoys partial shade.  Regular watering is recommended during the fruiting season.  This versatile fruit is superb eaten fresh but also sits well in yoghurt, smoothies, ice-cream, chutney and jam.

Perhaps the Feijoa is seldom found in our supermarkets as it is best eaten the day it falls from the tree. Too soon and the fruit is bitter, too late and the flesh is quick to bruise.  So watch your Feijoa tree closely!

According to the renowned author Wendell Berry, ‘eating is an agricultural act.’  This idea connects me to our Feijoa as with the origins of all the food I consume. At the moment we place food in our mouth we intimately connect to decisions made by others; our ancestors, farmers, corporations, retailers and probably future generations. Which genetic chemistry to favour, which varieties to plant, which chemicals to apply, what benchmarks to set for animal cruelty, how much water to add and which distributor to contract.  Maybe we should extend the notion of eating to not only being agricultural, but also an industrial act, since so much of our food is the product of industry not farmers.

But with our feijoa, the act remains agricultural, intimate, personal, profound and rewarding.  An exchange; sustenance for humans and for the feijoa the possibility of ongoing propagation.