3 May 2011
Strawberry guavas evoke memories of my grandmother and her backyard in Laguna Beach. My sister and I remember a small guava tree, no more than three feet high, but very productive. Grandma made guava jelly to share with family and friends. It was a lovely pink color that shimmered in the light.
Many years ago someone gave me a seedling guava, a stick only about a foot tall. It grew to about two feet in a large pot on my patio. One season it yielded six pounds of guavas. Then my family forgot to water it when I was away for a few weeks in the summer. It was never the same.
In a providential encounter, I met Mrs. Blake. She lived about a mile from me and had three strawberry guava trees. Her grandfather had a guava ranch and his was the first house built in Mission Hills (San Diego) in 1888, I was told. Mrs. Blake was in her 80’s and lamented the guavas dropping to the ground, rolling to the gutter. We agreed, nothing should be wasted. And so she invited me to gather and pick all I could use. She gave me her family’s guava jam recipe and some of her jam jars. I returned the favor with guava jam and my husband pruned her guava trees each winter.
When Mrs. Blake’s health declined, I decided to plant a strawberry guava tree. It would be a new source of guavas and a nod to the memory of my grandmother and Mrs. Blake. I searched nurseries in San Diego’s North County and found the species guava I remembered. The new leaves emerge bronze-green. I planted it in a sunny, sheltered location near my kitchen window.
My strawberry guava is a handsome specimen tree that at eight feet yields a bounty of fruit several times a year. I gather guavas and freeze them until I have enough for a batch of jam. Last fall I made fifty jars of Mrs. Blake’s guava jam to give to family and friends.
Many find the guava too astringent or the hard, small seeds bothersome. Not me. When working in the garden, I like to select a large guava, warm from the sun and delightfully ripe. I rub the skin in my hands and eat it. I swallow the tiny hard seeds. They are all part of the pleasure of eating a guava.
I have another small guava in a pot on my patio. It was my sister’s guava tree. We shared the same memories of Grandma’s guavas. My sister, Barbara was my best friend and gardening companion. After her death, her husband offered it to me. A measure of gardening is about memories.