I recently moved to Oakland, and after many years of apartment and condo living, I was very excited about the prospect of having a yard. I’ve always enjoyed gardening and foraging; the idea of either growing or collecting food I find very appealing. When I first took possession of the new house, it was mid-winter and most of the existing plants in the backyard were barren of leaves, so it was very exciting as spring arrived to discover what had been planted in the backyard. In addition to a citrus tree that was producing both Eureka lemons and Seville sour oranges, my neighbor informed me that I also had a pineapple guava tree along the eastern fence of the yard.
I have to admit that I wasn’t really familiar with this particular fruit. In the spring it produced exotic red and white flowers, and I crossed my fingers that I had one of the self-pollinating strains. Within a month I had received an answer, as the flowers began developing into small, green football shaped fruit. Throughout the summer they swelled and as the first week of fall arrived, the first fruit ripened and fell from the tree.
Not even knowing how they should be eaten, I brought several of the ripened fruit to work at Comal. When Andrew saw them, he exclaimed, “Oh, those are feijoa! My daughter Amelie loves to tear them open and scrape out the insides with her teeth.” Amelie’s mother is Colombian, and after doing some research, I learned that although often called pineapple guava in California, or guavasteen, it is actually not a true guava, and its origins are South American.
Certainly contributing to the confusion, their flavor is often described as a cross between guava and pineapple, or guava and strawberry, with overtones of wintergreen or spearmint. It is a truly exotic flavor that is very difficult to pinpoint. I decided to make a jelly with the fruit, as they are very high in natural pectin, and flavored it with Eureka lemon juice and zest from my other backyard tree along with clove and allspice. The resulting jelly tastes like an exotic lemon lollipop. I started brainstorming ideas for a cocktail with Matt Campbell, our lead bartender, and have come up with what I feel is a truly local seasonal cocktail. Mixing the spiced feijoa jelly with tequila, pomegranate and lemon juices, we ended up with a delicious, tart and mysteriously fruity cocktail.