Looking for a different fruit to grow? This South American native is a compact evergreen tree that can be espaliered or even hedged
If you’re after a tough, productive tree for your garden, don’t overlook the feijoa. It’s an attractive small evergreen tree that’s native to South America, with silvery leathery foliage, beautiful scarlet flowers in spring and a good batch of egg-shaped fruit in autumn.
Feijoa is sometimes called the pineapple guava because the pulp of the fruit is guava-like and the flesh tastes a bit like pineapple sherbet. You can eat the fruit in much the same way as you do kiwifruit: slice it in half and scoop out the flesh then perhaps make a batch of jam with the leftover fruit. Most varieties grow up to 4.5m tall but can be kept lower with pruning. They make wonderful edible hedges (see our feature on edible hedges in last issue). They also form attractive flowering and fruiting windbreaks or screens. You can even espalier them against a fence or courtyard wall.
Among the named varieties, ‘Mammoth’ is a standout with extra-big round to oval-shaped fruit and good flavour. ‘White Goose’ is a good early cropper with sweet fruit and smooth, juicy pulp, or you might like to try ‘Apollo’ with medium to large fruit that ripens mid to late season. ‘Nazematze’ is another tasty form with pear-shaped fruit and sweet flesh. If space is limited, try planting Feijoa ‘Unique’, a smaller-growing variety to just 2.5m tall.
Feijoas are both heat- and cold-tolerant and can cope with temperature extremes from -7°C to 40°C, but they need at least 50 hours of winter chilling to produce a good crop.
Some varieties are self-fertile, but even these types bear a heavier crop if cross-pollinated. Others require a pollinating partner, so do your research and read the label carefully before you buy.
You can expect a good crop of fruit from most trees within three to four years. Feijoa flowers are sweet and edible, too, so add the petals to drinks and desserts.
Common name: Feijoa, also pineapple guava
Botanical name: Acca sellowiana
Group: Evergreen shrub to small tree
Requires: Full sun; well-drained soil
Suitable for: Orchards, seaside plantings
Habit: Summer flowering, autumn fruiting
Needs: Long, warm growing season; winter chilling
Written by Melissa King
Originally in Good Organic Gardening, Volume 8 Issue 1