I know that I would have mentioned the Feijoa fruit in previous blogs because they are never far from my thoughts and not to mention them would be a serious oversight. I could go on and on about wonderful feijoas. Known by another name, Pineapple Guava, they seem rather exotic, with the taste difficult to define, and is best in the first fruit that fall off a tree. Feijoas in this country grow extremely well, with the green ovoid fruit falling mainly in April. It is the highlight of my food calendar year.
April is a great time of the year for the feijoa fruit to make an appearance because it coincides nicely with Easter-time here. And in a nice little parallel, the feijoa fruit is egg-sized and egg-shaped, and I like to think of them as ‘Nature’s Easter Eggs’. The fallen fruit lie on the ground like the Easter Bunny has left green Easter Eggs under the trees, sometimes hidden in long grass, for an Easter Egg Hunt.
PHOTO: Easter-time delights – Chocolate and feijoas : Easter Eggs and ‘Nature’s Easter Eggs’.
Feijoas are very sacrosanct to me for another reason. Family.
I have good memories associated with the feijoa from when I was a child. Visiting Grandma (Mum’s mother) during Feijoa season involved raiding the neighour’s tree with my cousins. From my childhood perspective I remember the neighbour’s tree being august and lofty, the biggest I have seen and we were allowed access through the adjoining gate from Grandma’s to their property.
We lived two and a half hours drive away from Grandma and every year, Grandma would box up these feijoas from the neighbours and send them to us by bus. This is a memory that I hold very dear – this box of feijoas – and upon opening the box there was that fantastic full-on feijoa fragrance. Because the arrival of this box coincided nicely with Easter-time, sitting on top of the feijoas would be brightly coloured tin-foil ovoid shapes containing chocolate-covered marshmellow Easter eggs. Thinking about it now, it is probably these good memories that started my love of feijoas. We would keep the box of feijoas in our pantry and the little room would be full of feijoa fragrance.
Then there was the hives incident…..Now, as I look back on it, the medical condition of hives is a funny thing. At the time it probably wasn’t but I don’t remember that. All I know is that I had hives when I was a child, and funnily enough it was a rash caused by feijoas – an example of too much of a good thing….. But, it was their fault, they were too good to resist. Then again, it probably was my fault too. Voluntarily I hid myself away in secret in the darkened pantry over the cardboard box of feijoas sent by Grandma, spoon in hand, making a good attempt at eating my way through the lot. And another funny thing: I have not been put off them. Not one bit. With everything there is a time for sharing; but with feijoas there is only a time for eating as many as possible before the season ends.
I wait in anticipation for this season. It is such a short season, which is, I suppose part of the charm that they seem to be short lived. We must make the most of them while they are here. There is a glut of fruit, as they seem to fall in great numbers, then the season is over. Mum and I make feijoa pie, feijoa muffins, feijoa loaf, feijoa cake, feijoa jam, have fresh feijoa with breakfasts, feijoas after every meal, feijoas for snacks….and on and on.
We know the locations of all the feijoa trees in Mum’s area within walking distance that overhang the sidewalks. And just this feijoa season, when we thought we knew them all, Mum added another one to the list. This is a very joyful discovery.
I now associate the word ‘joyful’ with feijoas because of a word Mum uses. The word is “freejoys” and it refers to feijoas that are found for free on the ground. The word is similar to the word ‘feijoa’, but finding the fruit for free is a joyous thing. So the two words ‘free’, and ‘joyous’ become combined – ‘freejoys’. I am not sure if she coined the word.
Along with the word ‘freejoy’ we have another word in our vocabulary to do with feijoas: it is the verb ‘feijoaing’. His can be used as in “Let’s go feijoaing” – meaning lets go looking for ‘freejoys’ or in another sense as in the following example. Just this week when feijoas were in the kitchen, and I hadn’t been seen for a while and had gone noticeably quiet, came a voice calling out “Are you feijoaing?” Meaning – was I in the kitchen scooping out fresh feijoas eating as many as I could. I am far too predictable: this voice was from someone who knows me far too well.
On our walks around the neighbourhood Mum and I are keeping watch on the developments of the feijoa trees year round. But from the last months of the year we wait and watch with eager interest. Around Christmas-time red flowers appear. (The Feijoa in this part of the world is so in tune with holiday seasons – as it was at Easter-time, it is also in tune with Christmas as red flowers appear in contrast against the green leaves. The trees look festive in greens and reds; Christmas colours). If the flowers appear earlier or later than usual, we debate whether the climate is changing and what this means for weather patterns for the coming year. Last December we wondered why the flowers appeared earlier than usual. As it happened, we had lots of rain when the fruit was developing on the trees. Rain is a good thing when the fruit is filling out, as the water plumps up the developing fruit. “All this rain will make the feijoas juicy” we say and keep a vigilant eye on the fruit.
The feijoa (*sigh*). Songs and poems should be written about them, the fruit is to be celebrated. Is there a feijoa festival somewhere in the world? If I won the lottery one of my dreams would be to follow the feijoa harvest seasons around the world. Imagine – a year full of FRESH feijoas – mmmmm. I would start at the beginning, where they originated in South America and follow the seasons. The closest I get to having feijoas year round is freezing the de-skinned fruit so I can thaw it out and pretend to have the fresh taste of feijoa throughout the year.
At work last feijoa season a colleague brought me a lovely offering – the last feijoa of the season off her tree. It was very small. But I kept it in the freezer for a whole year. I took it out to marvel at it, and dream of the next feijoa season. It is probably about now when I start to sound slightly kooky from this example, but I hope I am demonstrating that it is not just a love of feijoas, but an obsession.
And that Feijoa Fragrance – how I love it. Even in public I hold my nose over a bowl (or in) a bag of feijoas and inhale deeply, sniffing feijoa ‘fumes’ like an addict. Maybe someone should invent a perfume: Eau de Feijoa. Feijoa Parfum. The fragrance lifts the spirits.
So you can see my love of feijoas would take me around the world following the harvests, my love of feijoas also caused an outbreak of hives, the feijoa summons up memories of loved ones, past and present, and feijoas are associated with good times, plus I do have an obsession with the feijoa (a healthy one at least). So to sum it up, you could say I am passionate about this small green fruit. The uniquely flavoured fabulous fruity feijoa. I can’t be the only one out there……… surely?
PHOTO: The bowl of ‘freejoys’ that transformed into……..
the filling for this ‘freejoy’ feijoa pie.