Feijoa sellowiana, is an evergreen shrub native to Northern Argentina, Southern Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. It is the best known of only 3 species in the genus which the German botanist, Ernst Berger, named after Don da Silva Feijoa, a botanist of San Sebastian, Spain. The specific name honors F. Sellow, a German who collected specimens in the province of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil.
The paucity of vernacular names is indicative of its lack of popularity. In Uruguay, it is called, in Spanish, Guayabo del Pais. It has been nicknamed “pineapple guava”, “Brazilian guava”. The term “Guavasteen” has been adopted in Hawaii. The most unlikely term, “New Zealand banana”, has shown up in agricultural literature from that country. Jamaica received a few plants from California in 1912 and planted them at various altitudes. In southern India, the Feijoa is grown for its fruit in home gardens at temperate elevations – about 1,067 m.
It is believed that the plant was first grown in Europe by M. de Wette in Switzerland and, a little later, about 1887, it was known to be in the Botanic Garden at Basle. In 1890, the renowned French botanist and horticulturist, Dr. Edouard Andre, brought an air-layered plant from La Plata, Brazil and planted it in his garden on the Riviera. It fruited in 1897. Dr. Andre published a description with color plates of the leaves, flowers and fruit, in the Revue Horticole in 1898, praising the fruit and recommending cultivation in southern France and all around the Mediterranean area.
The plant is a bushy shrub 3 to 20 ft or more in height with pale gray bark; the spreading branches swollen at the nodes and white-hairy when young. The evergreen, opposite, short-petioled, bluntly elliptical leaves are thick, leathery, 1 1/8 to 2 1/2 in long, 5/8 to 1 1/8 in wide; smooth and glossy on the upper surface, finely veiny and silvery-hairy beneath. Conspicuous, bisexual flowers, 1 1/2 in wide, borne singly or in clusters, have 4 fleshy, oval, concave petals, white outside, purplish-red inside; 5/8 to 3/4 in long, and a cluster of numerous, erect, purple stamens with round, golden-yellow anthers.
The fruit is oblong or ovoid or slightly pear-shaped, 1-1 1/2 to 2 1/2 in long and 1 1/8 to 2 in wide, with the persistent calyx segments adhering to the apex. The thin skin is coated with a “bloom” of fine whitish hairs until maturity, when it remains dull-green or yellow-green, sometimes with a red or orange blush. The fruit emits a strong long-lasting perfume, even before it is fully ripe. The thick, white, granular, watery flesh and the translucent central pulp enclosing the seeds are sweet or sub acid, suggesting a combination of pineapple and guava or pineapple and strawberry in flavor. There are usually 20 to 40, occasionally as many as 100, very small, oblong seeds hardly noticeable when the fruit is eaten.
Feijoa fruit is a good source of vitamin C, potassium, iodine and folic acid. One fruit contains about fifty calories, 1.2g of protein and 4.3g of fiber. Feijoa fruit contains saponins, which are chemical compounds known as glycosides. Many saponins are thought to have anticancer properties and may lower cholesterol. Other foods that contain saponins are lentils, soy and alfalfa sprouts. Feijoa fruit is a good source of the secondary plant metabolites known as flavonoids. Flavonoids are known to play an important role in the prevention of cancer, by inhibiting the growth of tumors. They are also an ally in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Pastry Crust 9 inch
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon shortening
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut up
2 tablespoons ice water (2 to 3 tablespoons)
1 1/2 cups milk
3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 teaspoons fruit-flavor liqueur
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
20 feijoas, good sized
3 tablespoons feijoa preserves
1 teaspoon fruit-flavor liqueur
In large bowl, mix flour and salt. With pastry blender, cut in shortening and butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Sprinkle in 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water, a tablespoon at a time. Mix lightly with fork after each addition, until dough is just moist enough to hold together.
Shape dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes, or overnight. (If chilled overnight, let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before rolling).
Preheat oven to 425ºF. On lightly floured surface, with floured rolling pin, roll dough into an 11-inch round. Use to line 9 × 1-inch round tart pan with removable bottom. Fold overhang in and press against side of tart pan (helps provide extra support for sides) to form rim 1/8 inch above pan edge. Or, if you prefer, make the rim level with top edge of pan.
Line tart shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper; fill with pie weights. Bake 15 minutes. Remove foil with weights; bake 5 to 7 minutes longer, until golden. (If crust puffs during baking, press it against tart pan with back of spoon.) Cool completely on rack.
In 3-quart saucepan, heat milk to boiling over medium-high heat. In medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with granulated sugar until smooth; whisk in cornstarch. Gradually whisk hot milk into yolk mixture. Return to saucepan. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Reduce heat to low and cook, whisking, 2 minutes.
Remove from heat; stir in liqueur and vanilla. Pour into clean bowl; press plastic wrap directly onto surface to prevent skin from forming. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, until cold.
Whisk pastry cream until smooth (use fork to mix if too stiff). Spread evenly in tart shell.
Cut a thin slice off end of each feijoa to remove blossom end. Cut feijoas in half lengthwise. Using a teaspoon (or fruit spoon) scoop out each half as neatly as possible, and lay flat sides down on a plate or piece of wax paper. Choose the largest halves (all about the same size) and place each one, flat side down, on top of the cream in a circle around the outer circumference of the tart, so that the flat end is against the crust, and the pointed end is towards the center. When the outer circle is complete, continue making concentric circles in the same manner, until the cream is covered. Smaller halves can be used in the second and third circles and center if the feijoas are different sizes.
Heat the preserves in a small saucepan over low heat, or in a small bowl in microwave, until soft and “melted”. Remove from heat and stir in liqueur. Spoon over entire surface of the tart. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, remove side of pan and place tart on serving plate. (The side could be removed before filling the tart, but leaving it on provides extra protection while you work!)