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Black Chilean Guavas
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Black Chilean guavas grow on multi-branched trees that average 1 to 2 meters in height and appear more like a shrub than a tree. The small fruits suspend from short bright green stems and ripen to a deep burgundy to black color when fully mature. Black Chilean guavas tend to be larger than the cranberry-esque red Chilean guavas, but still only measure about 2 centimeters in diameter. The berries have a sweet flavor that is said to have notes of strawberries, spice, bubblegum and cotton candy.
Black Chilean guava is available in the late summer and through the winter months.
Black Chilean guavas are a rare fruit in the myrtle family and a distant relative of cloves, allspice and eucalyptus. Botanically classified as Ugni myricoides, they are like those guavas in the larger Psidium genus, but unique in that they are native to a more specific geographic region within Latin America. In fact, the petite berries have also earned the name 'Black Mexican guava', mainly due to an abundance of the plant in the state of Chiapas on the Mexico-Guatemala border. Their scientific name is derived from the Mapuche Native American word “Uñi”, also used to categorized their close cousin the red Chilean guava, U. molinae.
Guavas contain high amounts of antioxidants and moderate amounts of vitamins C and K. Chilean guavas are also a good source of fiber and carbohydrates.
Black Chilean guavas can be eaten fresh, straight from the plant, but are usually cooked. They can be baked into muffins, pancakes, scones or breads used similarly to blueberries. They are most often found in a preserved form, either as a jam or jelly. In southern Chile, the guavas are used to make ‘murta con membrillo’ which is a jarred mixture of Chilean guavas, quince and sugar that has been cooked down into a syrupy condiment. The berries can also be used to flavor beverages or syrups. Toss Black Chilean guavas with other tropical fruits like kiwi or star fruit for a variation of fruit salad. Black Chilean guavas will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
The berries were very popular in England in the 1800s and were a favorite of Queen Victoria. The fruit likely made its way to Australia with the British where it’s become a popular fruit. In Australia and New Zealand, Chilean guavas are referred to as “Tassie or Tazzie berries” and are marketed as an exotic treat.
Black Chilean guavas are native to Chile on the west coast of South America, specifically the Valdivian temperate rain forests of southern Chile (including the Juan Fernández Islands). They can also be found growing in Mexico, Central America, and parts of Argentina. Black Chilean guavas grow best in cooler subtropical areas and can withstand temperatures down to 18 degrees Fahrenheit. The fruits are hardy in the milder areas of Britain and often grow there as an ornamental. Black Chilean guavas are rare outside of Chile and Mexico, but have been recently embraced by niche growers in Tazmania, Australia and New Zealand. The berries may be seen at some small farms in the United States and in home gardens.