Real Food Encyclopedia | Guava

Believed to be native to southern Mexico, Central America and the Amazon Basin, the guava (Psidium spp.) has since spread to tropical and subtropical areas across the globe. The fruit’s flesh can range in color from greenish white to a saturated pink, with a tropical fragrance and a sour-sweet flavor. The skin is edible (though occasionally bitter), as are the seeds, which can be hard or gritty in certain varieties and tend to soften as the fruit ripens.

Guava, especially the fruit of the common guava (Psidium guajava), plays a major role in the cuisines of Latin America, where it is eaten raw, juiced, cooked in preparations like sauces or in the form of goiabada or “guava cheese,” a firm paste (guava is rich in pectin) that is served with breakfast or dessert. Another common species is the strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum), which has become an irritating invasive in Hawaiʻi, Florida and Puerto Rico, where most commercially cultivated U.S. guavas are grown. Guavas can also be grown in California.

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Fun Facts about Guavas: 

  • Guava is part of the myrtle (Myrtaceae) family, which also includes cloves, allspice and eucalyptus.
  • Legend has it that the guayabera, a style of button-down shirt popular in parts of Latin America, was so named because its four pockets were ideal for carrying guavas (or guayabas, in Spanish).

What to look for when buying guavas

Select guavas that are smooth-skinned, with a bit of give, and heavy for their size. The unripe fruit is tannic, but will ripen if left on the counter for a day or so.

Sustainability of guavas

Although guava trees fruit best when they have access to water, they are also extremely drought-tolerant.

When shopping for guavas or guava products, choose organic options to avoid exposure to potentially toxic agricultural applications. Chemical-free measures, such as netting or bagging the fruit, are often effective against pest infestations.


Guavas can fruit all year long in warm areas, though yields will fluctuate with the weather.

Eating guavas


Green fruit can be stored for two to five weeks in the refrigerator. Fully ripened fruit is best eaten within a few days.


Guava adds sweetness in a variety of preparations, from baked goods — the fruit is often paired with cheese, as in pastelitos de guayaba y queso — to entrees like Hawaiian guava chicken. A popular dessert preparation in Latin America is guava shells, also called cascos (“helmets”) de guayaba: hollowed-out guavas stewed in syrup and served with cream cheese. You can also use them for juices or puree to mix into tropical cocktails.


Guava is often made into pastes like goiabada (or the slightly softer bocadillo), but also works well in jams. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, fresh guavas will freeze best if packed in a medium-concentration syrup.


Guavas are extremely rich in Vitamin C, containing four times as much as oranges, and have as much (if not more) potassium as an equivalent amount of banana. They contain lycopene and other antioxidants.