Text and Photo by Henrylito D. Tacio
“It has more vitamin C than citrus; the edible rind alone has five times the vitamin C of an orange.” That is how Bill Daley describes Guava in his article published in Chicago Tribune.
Nutrition experts claim that vitamin C in Guava – mainly found in the skin, secondly in the firm flesh, and little in the central pulp – varies from 56 to 600 milligrams. It may range up to 350-450 milligrams in nearly ripe fruit. When it is fully ripe and soft, the vitamin C content may decline to 50-100 milligrams.
Aside from vitamin C, Guava is also rich in potassium, calcium, and iron. Likewise, Guava contains both carotenoids and polyphenols – the major classes of antioxidant pigments – giving them relatively high dietary antioxidant value among plant foods. As these pigments produce the fruits’ color, guavas that are red or orange in color have more potential value as antioxidants sources than yellowish-green ones.
Most people eat raw guavas, although there are those who prefer seeded and served sliced as a dessert or in salads. There are innumerable recipes for utilizing guavas in pies, cakes, puddings, sauce, ice cream, jam, butter, marmalade, chutney, relish, catsup, and other products.
Dehydrated guavas may be reduced to a powder which can be used to flavor ice cream, confections, and fruit juices, or boiled with sugar to make jelly, or utilized as pectin to make jelly of low-pectin fruits. In the Philippines, Guava is used in dishes like sinigang.
“Guava has a great potential for extensive commercial production because of its ease of culture, high nutritional value and popularity of processed products,” says the Bureau of Plant Industry, a line agency of the Department of Agriculture. “Most common areas where guavas are grown in abundance are: open areas, second-growth forests, backyard, or as a part of a mixed orchard.”
As Guava is considered a minor fruit crop, there are no existing records for big planting and production of Guava in the country. What most Filipino farmers don’t know is that Guava has an international market just waiting to be tapped.
Unknowingly, Brazil, since 1975, has been exporting large quantities of guava paste, concentrated guava pulp, and guava shells not only to the United States but to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Japan as well.
Canned, frozen guava nectar is an important product in Hawaii and Puerto Rico. In South Africa, a baby-food manufacturer markets a guava-tapioca product, and a guava extract prepared from small and overripe fruits are used as ascorbic-acid enrichment for soft drinks and various foods.
Guava has a thousand uses. In fact, Guava has been touted as an all-purpose medicinal plant. If “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” in Europe and the United States, it must be “a few guavas in the season keeps the doctor away for the whole year” in the Philippines and other tropical countries where guavas grow.
The roots, bark, leaves, and immature fruits, because of their astringency, are commonly employed to halt gastroenteritis, diarrhea, and dysentery, throughout the tropics. Crushed leaves are applied to wounds and ulcers. The leaf decoction is taken as a remedy for coughs, throat, and chest ailments.
The bark and leaf extracts of Guava have shown to have in vitro toxic action against numerous bacteria. The leaves of Guava are rich in flavonoids, which have demonstrated anti-bacterial activity. This anti-bacterial property of guava leaves is what causes benefits to the teeth and gums.
Because of this reason, Guava has been used for centuries to cure problems related to teeth and gums. Leaves are chewed to relieve toothache and to cure bleeding gums and bad breath. Guava leaf decoction is gargled to relieve mouth sores and inflamed and bleeding gums.
Julia F. Morton, in Fruits of Warm Climates, writes: “Guava has been effective in halting vomiting and diarrhea in cholera patients. It is also applied on skin diseases. A decoction of the new shoots is taken as a febrifuge. The leaf infusion is prescribed in India in cerebral ailments and nephritis. An extract is given in epilepsy and chorea and a tincture is rubbed on the spine of children in convulsions. A combined decoction of leaves and bark is given to expel the placenta after childbirth.”
Guava also helps reduce cholesterol in the blood and prevents it from thickening, thereby maintaining the fluidity of blood and reducing blood pressure. Studies have shown that foods that lack fiber (such a refined flour) add to blood pressure due to quick conversion to sugar. Guava, being very rich in fiber and hypoglycemic in nature, helps reduce blood pressure.
Guava is likewise very helpful for those who want to lose weight without compromising with their intake of proteins, vitamins, and fiber. Guava, being very high in roughage and very rich in vitamins, proteins, and minerals, but with no cholesterol and less digestible carbohydrates, is very filling and satisfies the appetite very easily.
Ironically, Guava helps gain weight among lean and thin people. This is probably due to its richness in nutrients, which keeps their metabolism right, helping proper absorption of nutrients.
Those who want to look younger should eat Guava. “Guavas can help improve your skin texture and avoid skin problems more than the best of beauty creams or skin toner gels can do,” a beauty expert said. This is chiefly due to the abundance of astringents in its fruits (more in immature ones) and in leaves.
Guava has several other uses. Morton, in her book, cited the following:
Wood: The wood is yellow to reddish, fine-grained, compact, moderately strong, weighs 650-750 kilograms per cubic meter; is durable indoors; used in carpentry and turnery. In India, it is valued for engravings. Guatemalans use guava wood to make spinning tops, and in El Salvador, it is fashioned into hair combs which are perishable when wet. It is good fuelwood and also a source of charcoal.
Leaves and bark: The leaves and bark are rich in tannin (10% in the leaves on a dry weight basis, 11-30% in the bark). The bark is used in Central America for tanning hides. In Southeast Asia, the leaves are employed to give a black color to cotton; and in Indonesia, they serve to dye matting.
Wood flowers: In Mexico, the tree may be parasitized by the mistletoe producing the rosette-like malformations called “wood flowers,” which are sold as ornamental curiosities.