Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert: Book VIII, Chapter XIX (Of the tree called guayabo and its fruit)

Book VIII, Chapter XIX

Of the tree called guayabo[1] and its fruit.

Translated by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert

The guayabo or guava tree is a tree prized by the Indians, and it is found in great quantities in this and other islands and the Mainland. It is an aromatic and good-tasting fruit, an attractive tree whose wood is good. There are many wild guava trees, but they are smaller than the cultivated one, which the Indians tend with great care. These trees are as large as orange trees; but the branches are less dense and more spread out, and the leaf is not as green or as large: somewhat larger than laurel leaves, broader and thicker, and the veins more raised. There are two species, but all guava trees bear a sort of apple, some longish and others round. Some of these trees bear a fruit that is red or pink inside, while others are white. On the outside both types are green but turn yellow if they are left to ripen for too long. And since when they are too ripe they don’t taste as well, or they fill up with worms, it is best to pick them when they’re somewhat green. Some of them are as fat as large pippins, and some are smaller; and there is a type that while green on the outside is still ripe inside. The mass inside is divided into four compartments in the center surrounded by a layer of pulp; the compartments are full of very hard grains, which are eaten, and it is a good fruit and easily digested; and they are good for regulating the intestines because when not fully-ripened and still somewhat hard fruit is eaten it curbs intestinal flow. Between the grains mentioned and the rind there is a fleshy part as thick as a stalk of cane or less, depending on whether the fruit is small or large, and the membranes dividing the center into sections are made from the same flesh, as is what is between them; but the pits are only found within the four compartments. This apple-like fruit is called guayaba or guava because the tree is called guayabo. And each guayaba is topped by a small crown made from small leaves that easily fall off. This fruit’s rind is thin, like that of a small or Cermeña pear, and is easy to peel. It is a good shade tree and its wood is good to make small things, but not for posts, rafters, or window frames, because the branches and trunk are warped and twisted. The fruit is held to be a good one here, and it is very common in many parts of the Indies, and better in some provinces than in others, where they are found in forest and groves; but the wild ones are small and so is the fruit. There are certain types of guava trees whose flower smells like jasmine or better, and it somewhat resembles orange blossoms, although guava blossoms are not as thick. The Indians plant these trees in their orchards, and the Christians do the same; but those not accustomed to eating the fruit may not be pleased with it because of the grains. It requires getting used to swallowing the little pits, as we get used to the many other travails we meet in these parts. But this one is not such a hardship, as it is a good fruit. These are trees that age quickly and are already old trees after six years and the fruit shows it; it gets smaller and diminishes every year, and even the flavor deteriorates and becomes more acerbic. Then they must be replaced and new guava trees planted, and on good soil, because it is a tree that recognizes good soil and shows its appreciation through its yield if it is well cultivated, and they rarely do well in poor soil.


[1] Psidium guajava.

Image retrieved from John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.