Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the June 15, 2007 Newsletter issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO

I'm reading a Mexican novel in which the characters speak down-home Spanish. "Hard to hide as a guava" is one colorful expression I've run across. Of course every Mexican knows why a guava is so hard to hide: Because of its powerful odor.

The other day Don Ereberto gave me a bag of guavas he'd bought at the market, shared with his friends, and now didn't want any more. It was late and I wasn't hungry, so I stored the bag on my desk. About midnight I had to get up and put the bag outside because the odor was so penetrating I just couldn't stand it.

It's one of those odors that at first strikes you as delicious and perfumy, with only a slightly musky undercurrent. But as time passes the muskiness takes over, grows heavy, smoothers with its insistent fragrance, and I am sure there must be pheromones involved working at the subconscious level. The odor of ripe guava is too like the voluptuous love affair that reaches unimagined fulfillment and then deep in the bosom of a certain languid, exhausted night this question arises: Now what? Heavy, heavy, even suffocating, and I put those guavas outside where the night air could carry their fragrance to less jaded nostrils and souls.

Guavas, called guayabas in Spanish, have been grown horticulturally for so long that many varieties have arisen. You can see the type commonly seen here below:


The many varieties are regarded as having been developed from two guava species. The typical yellow guava is PSIDIUM GUAJAVA, while the usually smaller, purplish-red "Strawberry Guava" is PSIDIUM CATTLEIANUM. Guavas are members of the Myrtle Family, in which we also find eucalyptuses and Allspice. The family is famous for its species producing aromatic oils.

In the above photograph, notice the dark, leathery items messily adhering to the top of each fruit. These are old calyx-lobes, the calyx being the usually greenish, cup-like thing out of which the corolla arises. Calyx lobes usually wither and either fall off or remain very inconspicuous as the fruit develops. For some reason they remain on guavas, and their presence is one way you can distinguish guavas from other medium-size, yellow or red fruits.

You can see a variety of guavas, read about their nutritional value, and browse some recipes at http://www.fao.org/WAIRdocs/x5425e/x5425e04.htm.