Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere


Psidium guajava

Guava is one of the world's most popular tropical fruits, and is now grown in almost every tropical region. Its sweet, juicy fruit is both tasty and nutritiuos, and it can easily be incorporated into a wide variety of dishes or eaten by itself. The name guava may refer to many different species of small shrubby, fruit bearing plants of the Psidium genus. However, it is Psidium guajava that is most popular and has been adopted in various parts of the world (Davidson).


Archaeological evidence shows that guavas were in use in Peru by around 800 BCE. It was in Peru that they were likely domesticated, but they quickly spread through South and Central America. By about 200 BCE they had reached as far north as Mexico, and from there spread to the Caribbean islands (Davidson).

The guava was first encountered by Europeans in present day Haiti where it went by the name guayavu. This name (guayaba in Spanish), traveled with the fruit, via Portuguese and Spanish traders, around the world. By the 17th century it was well established in India, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands (Davidson) (Morton).

Today the main producers of guava are Brazil and Hawaii. It has become a valuable commodity, and is traded world wide. Other major producers include Columbia, and India (Morton).

The Guava Plant and Fruit

The guava plant is a small tropical shrub, which bears the guava fruit. The fruit itself comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, textures, and taste qualities. The variety that is most highly prized is large, and pear-shaped with white inner-flesh. Guavas have an outer and inner zone; the inner zone containing the seeds, and the outer zone providing the flesh. These are surrounded by a thin skin. Unripe guavas are very bitter, but will ripen quickly off the vine (Davidson) (Morton).


Guava can be eaten out of hand or cut up with the seeds removed and placed in salads. A popular dessert in Latin America is cascos de guayaba or stewed guava shells. For this, the seeds are removed and strained then added back to the guava shells while cooking (Davidson) (Morton). Thick bars of “guava cheese” are also popular and guava jelly is a common market item. Additionally, guava can be added to ice cream, cakes, pies, butter, chutney, and a variety of other products (Morton).

Other Uses

Traditionally, the guava was used as both a food and a medicine. It has a great many properties that make it useful in treating various illnesses. For example, it has been used to treat diarrhea, infections, dental problems, heart problems, allergies, and even has anti-hyperglycemic qualities (Morton) (Gutiérrez). Many of these uses have been demonstrated in clinical trials (Gutiérrez).


Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, USA, 1999.

Gutiérrez, Rosa Martha Pérez, Sylvia Mitchell, and Rosario Vargas Solis. “Psidium guajava: A review of its traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 117.1 (2008): 1-27.

Morton, Julia. “Guava.” Fruits of Warm Climates. Miami, FL: Julia F. Morton, 1987. 356-363. 9 Jan 2009