There are bayabas or guavas in abundance at the local markets right now. Guavas (Psidium guajava L.) are part of the huge Myrtaceae family that includes eucalyptus and even makopa. Though no one is certain, guavas are believed to have originated in Mexico or slightly further South in Central America according to Alan Davidson in the Oxford Companion to Food. Another expert source, Elizabeth Schneider, writes that they are native to Brazilâ€¦ at any rate, they now flourish throughout the tropical world and are an extremely common backyard fruit in the Philippines. Until just two decades or so ago, the smaller more â€œnativeâ€ guavas predominated. Today, millions of those backyard trees still exist but the more commercially oriented large shiny skinned hybrids are what we see in the markets at relatively steep prices. There is a tremendous variety of guavas from those the size of small grapefruit to those the size of a small apricot. They can be green, yellow or even orange in color and can be extremely pungent and flavorful when ripe.
I have always enjoyed this fruit fresh before it ripens completely and gets really pungent and somewhat mushy. As a kid, I used to pick them from backyard or neighborhood trees and eat them with lots of rock salt. Eat too many and you could get a stomach ache, I was told. In the last twenty years, the larger varieties have really become dominant and while I like them a lot, they seem a bit artificial, more like the guavas of old on steroids! Nevertheless, I always buy a few guavas when they are in season as they have a unique taste, a nice astringent bite and a crisp texture that I like, not to mention serious doses of Vitamin C. Besides eating them fresh, I used to consume a huge amount of guava jelly which was paired in our household with bananas and cheap cheese â€“ why, I wouldnâ€™t know. Peanut Butter and Guava Jelly was also a thing I recall from the wee young years. Lately, I have taken to Guava Jam which is different from the jelly in that it is opaque, more substantial and more buttery. In fact, it must be the tropical equivalent of apple butterâ€¦yum!
Isnâ€™t it funny how certain characteristics of food stick in your memory banksâ€¦for me and the guava it is the strange texture of the seeds and their seeming indestructibility. I am almost certain that the seeds course through my digestive system intact since they appear to be so strong. That theory would apply to all the birds that eat wild guava and poop the seeds across the archipelago hence the abundance of guava treesâ€¦ Finally, one last guava tipâ€¦ buy some canned guava juice (donâ€™t know how they get that from such a dry fruit!) and add it to commercial ice tea. Whip this up in a blender and serve with lots of ice. The mixture of tea and guava is really good and those who taste this are surprised by the twist you have given the iced tea. Enjoy! Oh, help!!! Do any of you have a good recipe for sinigang using guavas??? Please share.