Or, Liz encounters a fruit that millions of people already knew about. (And loves it.)
Apparently the feijoa is the up and coming new It Fruit, and it’s just a matter of time before it’s blamed for Millennials not buying houses.
I read an article in The Guardian on Saturday about the love for feijoas in New Zealand, where it’s the other national fruit (despite being native to South America) and the push to spread the feijoa joy throughout the world, so it seemed like kismet — or canny marketing and good timing — when I found some at the supermarket that afternoon.
I had seen them before, of course, tiny displays near the dragonfruit and the rambutan, but I always bypassed them — they looked like figs, which I generally associate with murder (which is an occupational hazard of having a degree in ancient history). Also, I didn’t know how to eat them.
These were going for $1.50 each, or half a taco on Tuesdays at my local, but I was intrigued by the article I’d read a few hours earlier, so I just had to try.
Sad Liz Fact: I like to define myself as a person who loves trying new foods, I often hesitate to do so. It’s a Lower Middle Class thing: what if I spend all this money, and then I’m stuck with a food that I don’t like?
But I was a brave little toaster that day, and also at the phase of my pay cycle where I go, “Ehhh, I seriously over-budgeted for work lunches, I can spare $1.50.”
So I bought the feijoa.
That was Saturday. Today, a lady in the lift at work had a bike pannier full of feijoas from her tree, and she gave me a handful because … well, they don’t keep very long, and she has to get rid of them somehow. So my desk is full of the sweet, perfume-like smell of my new favourite fruit.
What are they like? The smell reminds me a little of lychee — it’s entirely different, but there’s something about the strong sweetness that’s reminiscent of the world’s nicest eyeball fruit. Also it turns out that describing odours is difficult.
Okay, I googled “what does a feijoa smell like” to see what other people said, and a word that comes up is “ambrosial”.
The flavor and fragrance of feijoa defies categorization. On sight, the fruit resembles a cross between an elongated lime and a kiwi. The nose expects to smell something green, but the immediate impression of a feijoa is a tropical mélange that evokes guava, strawberry, pineapple and violet notes. There is something about the green element in feijoa that is at once familiar, yet seemingly incongruous and medicinal. The culprit is methyl benzoate, an ester that is evocative of eucalyptus with wintergreen and berry facets.
IT’S A TROPICAL MELANGE, GUYS. Man, scents are complex!
But they’re on the money with the guava comparison, and I think I read somewhere that the feijoa is a kind of guava.
I eat the fruit by cutting it in half and scooping out the soft, seedy centre. Close to the rind, the texture is grainy and hard, but it’s easy to avoid that — I just scoop out the part that comes easily. That’s about a mouthful’s worth.
The taste is much like the smell, but with a deep, unfamiliar note. I almost want to call it “woolly”. I don’t find it unpleasant, but others might. The aftertaste lingers, sweetness and a touch of something sharper.
Feijoas are small, and only about two-thirds of the fruit is edible. You would have to eat a lot to satisfy hunger. But they’d make an amazing addition to a fruit salad, or maybe served with yoghurt (if you eat yoghurt, which I don’t). I want to try them in cocktails, and in combination with citrus (have you ever had guava and orange juice? It’s amazing). New Zealand has a wealth of recipes using feijoa, from feijoa chicken curry to feijoa wine. Taste.com.au has … none.
Unfortunately, although the trees fruit heavily, getting them to that point seems a bit complicated — you need a proper garden, and multiple trees, and cross-pollination, and it’s all too complicated for me, a person who has barely managed to keep a catnip seedling alive for a year. But if you have a garden and a green thumb, and you live in Melbourne, I urge you to consider the feijoa. You will find yourself with many grateful Kiwi friends, and also I promise to ask before I eat all your fruit.