Grown in Hawaii: The give and take of Guava.
Guava is not native to Hawaiʻi, though it’s made itself quite comfortable. Too comfortable. Likely originating from Central and South America, guava was brought to the Hawaiian islands early on in Western-contact days and has since provided wood, fruit and astringent medicine. But there’s one big problem with guava, strawberry guava in particular: it has become the most invasive tree species in Hawaiʻi. Though guava trees provide an abundance of lemon-sized, tart and aromatic fruit, they are in essence lofty weeds. And they are good at being weeds; strawberry guava even produces a chemical in the soil around its base which prevents the growth of other plants. The guavas form monolithic stands, their fruit drops, pigs eat the fruit, then carry the seeds to other areas where new guava trees sprout, vastly reduce the amount of available water and crowd out the plants growing there. This is particularly a problem for the vulnerable native flora of Hawaiʻi.
Fortunately, there is one flavorful thing that everyone can do at the very basic level of activism to protect precious native Hawaiian species from guava: eat guava. To prevent further spreading of the guava seeds, harvest the fruit before it falls to the ground. Slow Island uses all Hawaiʻi-grown ingredients from local sustainable farms, including guava, picked at peak ripeness. Their Passionfruit Orange Guava Culinary Syrup is the flavors of celebrated Hawaiian POG juice, but made with fresh, local fruit. It is real fruit flavored syrup for alcoholic drinks, to be drizzled on yogurt or ice cream, or as an addition to tropical sauces. By sourcing from their own community, Slow Island is fostering a symbiotic relationship: utilizing what the land can provide to create a product that boosts the economy of the land. In a small way, they are assisting guava trees in giving back to their adopted home.
Another perhaps obvious way to reduce invasive guava trees in Hawaiʻi is to stop large-scale production.
Part of the land that Common Ground Kauaʻi now thrives on was formerly a piece of Kilauea’s 600-acre Guava Kai Plantation. In addition to the invasive nature of guavas in Hawaiʻi, the fruit has also fallen steadily in price since 1989 and, from a big picture perspective, exporting the product contributes to Hawaiʻi’s lack of food autonomy. Although some guavas still grow on the now divided-up land, Common Ground utilizes their parcel in wholly sustainable and regenerative ways while reinventing Hawaiian food economy.
Guava kai seeds
Highly fragrant fruit usually with green or yellow skin, about the size of a baseball, with pink or white flesh. The guava is one of the most common fruits in the world and its sweet pulp is used in a wide assortment of drinks, desserts, and other food products.
Seeds are now available at our seed store.
A shrub or small tree, sometimes growing as high as 30ft, but usually no more than 10-15ft.
The guava is highly adaptable to tropical and subtropical environments and can be grown outdoors as far North as the San Francisco Bay Area in California, as well as most areas of Florida and gulf coast states. Protect from temperatures below 30F, which can cause defoliation. Harder freezes will kill the plant. In cool winter areas, guava’s may partially defoliate, but should begin new growth flushes in spring and summer.
Guava’s grow well in full sun, except in hot regions, where partial shade is beneficial. If trying to grow in a marginal climate, plant near a building or provide some sort of protection from damaging cold winds and rain. Generally, guava’s are fairly adaptable and will flourish with little care. Flowers will self-pollinate and fruit develops in a few months. There may be multiple fruiting and flowering seasons throughout the year, depending on local climate conditions. Guava’s are shallow rooted and prefer lots of moisture throughout the year (except if cold), although they will withstand periods of drought, as well as dry seasonal changes. Keep the soil especially moist during flower and fruit set. The guava will tolerate poor soils, but grows much better when fertilized monthly, or when grown in soil that is high in organic material. They are not tolerant of salty soils.
Often by seeds, which remain viable for up to a year. Sprouting can take 3-8 weeks. Better varieties are propagated by grafting, air-layering and root cuttings. Warm soil temperature (70-85F) is important in germination.
Guava seeds are of moderate difficulty to germinate. The most common stumbling block is not allowing enough time to pass for germination as guava seeds routinely need a minimum of 4-6 weeks before any possible germination. Plant seeds 1/4-1/2″ deep in moist, sterile soil. Keep soil temperature consistent at 70-85F. Cool soils will significantly delay seed germination time and soil temperatures below 60-63F will inhibit germination altogether.
Estimated germination time under optimal conditions: 4-12 weeks, though occasionally longer. Seeds often show staggered germination.
Guava’s can be eaten fresh but are often used to flavor drinks, desserts, sauces, preserves, and many other food products.
Native to southern Mexico and Central America. Was long ago spread throughout the American tropics, Asia, Africa and Pacific Islands. The guava is an invasive pest species in some parts of the world, particularly on Pacific Islands.
|Acmena smithii (Eugenia smithii)
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|Psidium littorale (P. cattleianum lucidum)
Blue Lilly Pilly
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Common Ground’s Guava Roots
During its heyday, Guava Kai considered itself to be the guava capital of the world—and with 480 acres in commercial cultivation in 2004, it really was—ranking among the largest guava plantations anywhere. Guava Kai produced more than half of the state of Hawaiʻi’s guava; daily harvests could exceed 150,000 pounds.
With guava being one of the most beloved tropical flavors, the plantation was bustling. They welcomed tourists and locals alike, every day of the year, and sold whole guavas at fruit stands across the island. Most of their harvest was processed into a puree and shipped to outer islands, the mainland, Canada and Japan to be used in fruit drinks, jams and jellies, sherbets and various confections. As a tourist stop, they provided the opportunity for visitors to pick their own guava, learn the process of cultivation and processing, and enjoy guava smoothies and guava ice cream. Guava Kai was a Kilauea mainstay until they closed their doors after 30 years in February of 2007.
The campus of CG has a long plantation history, even before Guava Kai. The land had formerly been a part of the Kilauea Sugar Company, an 11,500-acre operation which produced sugar for 95 years, from 1877-1971. This “Plantation-era” is a consequential piece of the history of Kauaʻi and played a lasting role in shaping the island, driving the development of infrastructure. The Kilauea Sugar Company was the first to construct a railroad system for transportation in 1881. Queen Liliuokalani even drove in the first stake. Small pieces of the track can still be found on the Common Ground campus.
Long before the land which would later become the Guava Kai Plantation ever began changing hands, guava was brought to Hawaiʻi via an extended water crossing. In about 1791, a Spaniard adventurer by the name of Don Francisco de Paula Marin first stepped foot on Hawaiian soil. He served as Kamehameha I’s business advisor, bookkeeper, and interpreter and was known to have a green thumb. Marin planted elaborate gardens of diverse fruits and vegetables, many of which had never before been documented in Hawaiʻi; olive, prickly pear cactus, tamarind, peach and grape. He also grew guava. Although often credited with having specifically introduced guava to the islands, it is neither mentioned in his journal or his correspondence. Regardless, guava most likely made its way to Hawaiʻi via ship—it is not native. Whether or not Marin brought it himself, he did further propagate the fruit.
Common Ground has now respectfully made its home on this storied land with a long plantation past. Although no longer growing guava, conscious consumers can shop for locally grown and produced Hawaiian guava products with Common Ground.