Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gilding the Guayaba

One day in high school, my friend Sandy handed me a lime colored object. She had a small bag full of the fruit from her backyard. It didn’t have a smell when I brought it to my nose. “How do you eat it?” I’d never tasted a guava before and she invited me to try…the experience was like eating mussels, hunting for the good ones.

With her spoon, she split one in half much like you would with a hardboiled egg.

“Just scoop the middle out and put it in your mouth.”

The first one was dull and tasteless (not ripe, according to Sandy).

She handed me another. This time, the insides were slimy and pearly white…and the taste…a hint of banana?

It was…OK. Nothing to write home about.

Years passed and I settled for the kind that grew from a can. Not interested in rekindling the experience even from the tropical edens of Hawaii and Vietnam on my travels. My memory blurs confusing the fruit with passion fruit… an elusive dessert or a cocktail? Was that guava?

So how is it possible, that I’ve fallen head over heels for a 2-inch fruit?

In Mexico, they are as ubiquitous as tomatoes – yellow and pink like crab apples singing from crates at every market stall. The variety here, once ripened has a soft banana like center with hard seeds that you can’t eat. You enjoy everything around it once the center (which is the best part, in my opinion) is sadly discarded. (I’m also experimenting on a yeast batch from left over guava pulp and seeds. I’m curious to see if guavas (like raisins) will work out for bread baking. Stay tuned).

The taste is divine.

I have 2 tiny guavas in the kitchen. I can smell their pungent and seductive perfume a mile away. The smell intoxicates me, renews me, even saying its name in Spanish guayaba excites me.

To describe a guava is to tell a love story. The scene where Madame Bovary and her lover ride around in the carriage all day aimlessly…except:

Emma is a heady strawberry
Leon is a lusty banana

(And heck maybe the coach driver gets in on the action.)

He’s a bold bosc pear

And the hot lovemaking on the seats….the scent and taste of its love child...guava.

Ok, I’m starting to fan myself in need of something cool to sip (did it just get really hot?).

Here’s a recipe that combines 2 of my favorite things, agua de jamaica (a hibiscus drink) and of course guayaba! Why gild the lily with something already as perfect as the guava? I can't think of a reason...shall we?

Recipe for Agua de Jamaica con Guayaba (Checkout all guayaba photos)
*Adopted from, don’t mess with grandma

2 c dried jamaica 
10 c water (a lil over 2 liters)
1 c cane sugar (or any type of natural sugar or honey)
6-8 guavas (cored and blended /or 4-5 tablespoons of concentrate)

The flowers are cooked with water to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow it to steep for 10 minutes, turn off the heat. Add the sugar and let it cool.

Strain the liquid in a glass pitcher or jar. Add the blended guavas and mix (or if your lazy like me pour everything in a blender add the cored guavas and press start…the agua de jamaica is also a potent stain, mind the splatters). Sweeten by adding more sugar or honey to taste. Place in the fridge for several hours for the flavors to get happy.

Serve with some ice. Salud chicos!

agua de jamaica con guayaba

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