Guavas (singular guava /ˈɡwɑː.və/) are common tropical fruits cultivated and enjoyed in many tropical and subtropical regions.
Psidium guajava (common guava, lemon guava) is a small tree in the Myrtle family (Myrtaceae), native to Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. Although related species may also be called guavas, they belong to other species or genera, such as the “pineapple guava” Acca sellowiana.
The most frequently eaten species, and the one often simply referred to as “the guava”, is the apple guava (Psidium guajava). Guavas are typical Myrtoideae, with tough dark leaves that are opposite, simple, elliptic to ovate and 5–15 centimetres (2.0–5.9 in) long. The flowers are white, with five petals and numerous stamens. The fruits are many-seeded berries.
The genera Accara and Acca (formerly Feijoa, pineapple guava) were formerly included in Psidium.
The term “guava” appears to derive from Arawak guayabo “guava tree”, via the Spanish guayaba. It has been adapted in many European and Asian languages, having a similar form.
Another term for guavas is peru, derived from pear. It is common in countries bordering the western Indian Ocean and probably derives from Spanish or Portuguese. In parts of the Indian subcontinent and Middle-East, guava is called amrood, possibly a variant of armoot meaning “pear” in the Arabic and Turkish languages.
Guavas originated from an area thought to extend from Mexico or Central America and was distributed throughout tropical America and Caribbean region. They were adopted as a crop in subtropical and tropical Asia, the southern United States (from Tennessee and North Carolina south, as well as the west and Hawaii), and tropical Africa.
Guavas are now cultivated in many tropical and subtropical countries. Several species are grown commercially; apple guava and its cultivars are those most commonly traded internationally.
Mature trees of most species are fairly cold-hardy and can survive temperatures slightly colder than 25 °F (−4 °C) for short periods of time, but younger plants will likely freeze to the ground.
Guavas were introduced to Florida in the 19th century and are now grown in Florida as far north as Sarasota, Chipley, Waldo and Fort Pierce. However, they are a primary host of the Caribbean fruit fly and must be protected against infestation in areas of Florida where this pest is present.
Guavas also grow in a small part of the south of western Europe, specifically the Costa del Sol on Málaga, (Spain) where the guavas are commercially grown since the middle of the 20th century and they proliferate as cultivars.
Guavas are of interest to home growers in subtropical areas as one of the few tropical fruits that can grow to fruiting size in pots indoors. When grown from seed, guavas bear fruit as soon as two years and as long as 40 years.
Guava fruits, usually 4 to 12 centimetres (1.6 to 4.7 in) long, are round or oval depending on the species. They have a pronounced and typical fragrance, similar to lemon rind but less sharp. The outer skin may be rough, often with a bitter taste, or soft and sweet. Varying between species, the skin can be any thickness, is usually green before maturity, but becomes yellow, maroon, or green when ripe. The pulp inside may be sweet or sour and off-white (“white” guavas) to deep pink (“red” guavas). The seeds in the central pulp vary in number and hardness, depending on species.