Not only is the feijoa plant low-maintenance to grow and easy on the eyes — with its big, pink flowers and silvery leaves that are both drought- and deer-resistant — it also produces edible fruits that provide valuable nutrients. What is feijoa called in English? It’s also known as pineapple guava, which is a type of fruit that’s nutrient-dense and high in antioxidants.
The pineapple guava plant actually contains many edible food parts. Its leaves, fruit and stems can all be used to make extracts, purees and more.
Let’s look more closely at what makes feijoa/pineapple guava a superfood and how you can add it to your diet.
What Is Feijoa?
Feijoa (Acca sellowiana) is a type of tree in the Myrtaceae family that produces a tasty, guava-like fruit. It’s native to South America, as it thrives in tropical/subtropical climates where other fruits, as mangos, bananas and pineapple, grow.
The plant is most popular as an ornamental shrub, since it grows attractive flowers with pink petals, red stems and big, silvery-green leaves that attract bees, butterflies and birds.
The feijoa fruit, which was named after a former director of the National History Museum in Spain who had the last name Feijo, is sweet and fragrant, falling off the pineapple guava tree once it’s heavy and ripe.
Is pineapple guava the same as guava?
Not exactly. The pineapple guava tree is different than the more commonly known guava tree (Psidium guajava), although the two species are related and have many things in common. For example, both are great sources of fiber and vitamin C.
Pineapple guava is also different than pineapple (Ananas comosus) — however it does have a slight pineapple taste.
Feijoas look somewhat like elongated limes, since their skin is green, and their size is about the same as an egg.
The flowers that grow on the pineapple guava tree are completely edible, as is the fruit. You can eat it right off the plant or use in recipes, such as herbal tea, desserts or smoothies. (See below for more recipe ideas.)
There are several different species of pineapple guava plants that are commonly grown today, including:
- Apollo: This species produces medium-sized fruit that have a slight gritty texture.
- Coolidge: Produces large, early fruits and grows in cooler growing zones.
- Nikita: Produces fruits early in the season and grows well in small spaces or containers.
Are feijoas only grown in NZ?
Today, feijoa plants are most commonly grown in New Zealand, since they thrive in subtropical climates. In fact, many subtropical plants are now primarily exported from New Zealand, such as kiwis.
However, you can also find some feijoas from small farms in California and in parts of South America.
Pineapple Guava Nutrition
Can you eat pineapple guavas? Yes, and there are many reasons you should, considering they provide antioxidants, fiber and vitamins, such as vitamin C. They’re also generally low in calories but filling due to their high fiber content.
According to the USDA, one cup of raw feijoa/pineapple guava chunks (about 205 grams) contains about:
- 126 calories
- 31 grams carbohydrates
- 1.5 grams protein
- less than 1 gram fat
- 13 grams fiber
- 67 milligrams vitamin C (75% DV)
- 47 micrograms folate (12% DV)
- 0.47 milligrams vitamin B5 (10% DV)
- 353 milligrams potassium (8% DV)
- 0.07 milligrams copper (8% DV)
- 0.17 milligrams manganese (7% DV)
- 21 milligrams magnesium (5% DV)
What is pineapple guava good for? The leaves and fruits of the plant are both edible and have some interesting uses, including supporting immune function, digestion and even mental health.
1. Contains Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Compounds
In a 2014 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, feijoa fruit juice was studied in vivo to investigate its anti-inflammatory activities. It was shown to help inhibit inflammatory pathways, including by preventing oxidative stress and inhibiting protein-kinase C pathways.
When the fruit juice was analyzed, many antioxidants were found, including:
- ellagic acid
- gallic acid
- syringic acid
Inflammatory activity of feijoa juice was found to protect against edema (swelling caused by fluid leaking and buildup, which is a sign of inflammation) for up to five hours.
Another study demonstrated that F. sellowiana extracts displayed “remarkable antioxidant activity and decreased lipid peroxidation in rats.” For example, giving rats feijoa extract increased glutathione levels, which is considered a “master antioxidant” that defends organs against damage.
Yet another study focused on pineapple guava’s antioxidant effects found that it could reduce destructive side effects of certain medications and treatments. In this study, feijoa extract helped improve sperm parameters in rats treated for testicular disease, including sperm count, morphology, motility and sperm viability.
2. Great Source of Immune-Boosting Vitamin C
The body doesn’t make or store vitamin C on its own, so it’s vital to include plenty of vitamin C fruits and vegetables into your daily diet. As a great source of vitamin C, pineapple guava has antioxidant properties that can defend cells against damage, including cells that form the skin, brain and heart.
Vitamin C plays an important role in immune function, free radical reduction and synthesis of collagen protein, which forms and repairs connective tissues throughout the body. Consuming more vitamin C foods may help defend against cancer formation, protect against common colds and viruses, and decrease the risk of conditions including heart disease, arthritis, gout and others.
Additionally, feijoa fruit and peel contain phytochemicals that support immune function, have cytoprotective effects and have antimicrobial properties. One analysis found that pineapple guava possessed 40 different compounds that could boost immune defenses, especially sesquiterpenes and monoterpenes, such as selinene, α-Caryophyllene and germacrene.
3. Supports Gut/Digestive Health With High Amounts of Fiber
One cup of peeled pineapple guava provides a whopping 13 grams of fiber.
High-fiber foods such as fruits can support a healthy digestive tract and contribute to healthy gut microbiota, which are organisms living inside the microbiome that play a role in immune function, body weight regulation, digestion and mental health.
Due to its rich supply of fiber, pineapple guava can help guard against constipation, diverticulosis, kidney stones, and potentially obesity and heart disease risk factors, such as high cholesterol and triglycerides.
Findings from a 2018 study published in Nutrients suggest that feijoa also has great potential to be used in the treatment and prevention of inflammation-related gastrointestinal diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease.
4. Has Potential Antidepressant Effects
One animal study found that compounds found within the pineapple guava plant can cause reuptake of catecholamines (hormones released in response to physical or emotional stress), acting as a natural antidepressant aid.
Leaf extracts were found to have stronger effects than fruit extracts. Giving mice feijoa extract helped promote more physical activity (a sign of less depression/fatigue), including by increasing climbing time and swimming capabilities.
We also know that eating high-antioxidant foods and high-fiber foods contributes to gut health, and due to the “gut-brain connection,” this is beneficial for maintaining a positive mood and mindset.
How to Grow and Use
Growing pineapple guava:
Pineapple guava trees can grow to be quite big, up to 20 feet tall and 20 feet wide. That being said, they’re often pruned or trimmed down to be grown as shrubs or small trees.
Something great about these trees is that they remain colorful all year long, with long, silver-green, oval foliage that produces bright flowers in the spring. The flowers, which have pink and white petals with bright red stems, have a sweet and vibrant smell that attracts birds and butterflies, yet they are generally resistant to deer.
Here are tips for growing pineapple guava plants at home:
- They do best in moderate temperatures with moderate to low humidity.
- Plant them somewhere with lots of sun exposure (either full or partial).
- Keep the soil moist but well-drained.
- These plants tend to be easy to grow but can be damaged by high winds, so consider protecting them if you live in a very windy area.
- They are described as “slow-growers,” so they can be grown in containers and small spaces.
- It might take a couple years before the trees produce edible fruit. Pineapple guava fruit ripens in the fall. The fruit will fall off of trees once it’s ready to be collected and eaten.
What Does Pineapple Guava Taste Like?
Pineapple guava is described as tasting like a cross between pineapple, banana, kiwi, quince and Concord grapes, also having notes of lemon and menthol. In other words, think of it as a “minty, citrusy guava.”
Recipes and Storage:
You can use this fruit in many of the same ways as regular guava, such as in:
- fruit salads
- ice creams
- fruity desserts
It’s also a popular ingredient in jellies, since it has a slight sweet and tangy flavor.
Look for feijoa fruit that is firm when touched, similar to the texture of a plum or soft pear. Before eating feijoa, cut away the slightly bumpy, thin skin.
Eat the inside flesh, which should be cream- to tan-colored, granular and somewhat dense. Remove the small seeds before eating the fruit.
If the fruit isn’t yet ripe, leave it at room temperature for a few days, or put it inside a closed paper bag to help it ripen faster.
Once ripened, feijoas can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two. You also can puree the raw fruit and freeze it for later, which makes it easy to make smoothies.
Here’s how to make feijoa purée (about two cups’ worth), which can be used in smoothies or desserts:
- Use about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of organic coconut or cane sugar (you can use monk fruit sweetener or stevia to reduce the sugar content but increase sweetness) with 1 cup water and 2 pounds ripe, peeled feijoas.
- Stir sugar and water together in a non-aluminum saucepan, then bring to boil.
- Halve feijoas crosswise, and scoop out pulp. Don’t use any skin, which has a bitter taste. Add to boiling water/sugar mixture, stir for a couple minutes, remove from heat, then allow cool.
- Puree thoroughly in a blender of food processor. If you’d like, press through a sieve to remove some pulp (although this adds fiber to the puree). Refrigerate up to 1 week or freeze up to 6 months.
Risks and Side Effects
Like other tropical fruits, pineapple guava is generally safe to eat and well-tolerated by most adults and children. However, if you’re allergic to guava, avoid feijoa since you may have a negative reaction.
If you experience any adverse effects like itching, rash or hives after consuming this fruit, avoid eating it.
It’s best to consult with your doctor before using feijoa extract or other pineapple guava supplements, especially if you have any underlying conditions that you take medication for.
- Pineapple guava, also called feijoa (Acca sellowiana), is a plant in the Myrtaceae family that grows in subtropical locations.
- Are feijoas good for you? Yes; they’re high in antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C and other minerals.
- Benefits of consuming this fruit include supporting digestion, gut function, heart health, immune defenses and positive moods.
- What do feijoas taste like? Their taste is a combination of guava, pineapple, banana, lemon and mint.
- You can consume the flesh, leaves, flowers and stems, but the skin is bitter and usually avoided. Try adding pineapple guava fruit to desserts, smoothies, jellies and other fruit recipes.
Pineapple Guava: Feijoa Benefits, Nutrition, Uses, Recipes, More is written by Jillian Levy, CHHC for draxe.com