We had lunch with friends last week and she of that household was determined to rehome surplus feijoas with us. In vain did I assure her that we have a more than bountiful supply at home, the moment we admired the generous sized fruit from one of her trees, she was loading them into a bag for us. As we left, she spotted more fruit that had fallen and was busily gathering them. “She left no feijoa uncollected” would be an apt epitaph, I decided.
Feijoa sellowiana is native to temperate South America but is probably the home fruit tree most universally grown in this country – sometimes described as either the most democratic or most socialist fruit. This is because once the fruit starts falling, it comes in bucket loads. At the start of the season, enterprising children often bag them and leave them out in an honesty box for passers-by. This is the seasonal phase of feijoa anticipation.
Soon the anticipation morphs into phase two of feijoa abundance. The fruit has a short shelf life and is not suited to transportation so efforts to grow it commercially have generally been less than successful but this rarely matters because it crops so heavily and is so widely grown that there is only a market for the first fruit of the season. During the abundance phase, busy little Squirrel Nutkins around the country are freezing stewed fruit, dehydrating it, baking feijoa muffins and loaves and making feijoa chutney. Newspapers and social media are full of recipes to use up the surplus.
All too soon, a condition best described as feijoa desperation takes hold as our nation reaches the point where you can’t even give the fruit away. This is certainly true in the North Island and the upper South Island. I am not sure how widely grown they are further south but they have a wide climatic range and will grow in most temperate areas.
For those wondering what to do with some feijoas, I can recommend the following recipe which came down my Facebook feed. I failed to note whose recipe it is but I am pretty sure it came from a leading yoghurt supplier – maybe Anchor?
Frozen feijoa yoghurt
1 ½ cups frozen feijoas
2 frozen bananas
1 cup yoghurt
½ tablespoon maple syrup.
Whizz it all up in a food processor or blender.
That is it. That is all you need to do. Eaten straight away, it is like a delicious soft-serve icecream but without the high fat and sugar content. Frozen for two hours, it is more like a firmer icecream. Frozen for longer and it sets rock solid so you need to take it out of the freezer to soften. My advice is to free flow the fruit on a tray, not, as I initially did, freeze them stuck together in a container. It is easier on the food processor.
At least, in our act of culinary appropriation, we have not renamed the feijoa. This is not true of the tamarillo, also from South America, (Solanum betaceum), the kiwifruit from China (actinidia) and the ‘New Zealand cranberry’ which has no relationship at all to actual cranberries but may instead be Myrtus ugni syn Ugni molinae or Psidium littorale – both from South America.
For overseas readers who have not encountered our fruit of NZ socialism, I am not sure how to describe the taste of feijoas. How would you describe the taste of an apple or a pear? A feijoa tastes, fruitily, like a feijoa.