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Guavas (singular guava, //) are common tropical fruits cultivated and enjoyed in many tropical and subtropical regions. The best known is Psidium guajava (common guava, lemon guava), a small tree in the Myrtle family (Myrtaceae), native to Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. Several related species are also referred to as guavas, and some are cultivated in more limited regions. Some fruits commonly referred to as "gauvas" are in other genera, such as the "strawberry guava", Acca sellowiana.
The most frequently eaten species, and the one often simply referred to as "the guava", is the Apple Guava (Psidium guajava).. Guavas are typical Myrtoideae, with tough dark leaves that are opposite, simple, elliptic to ovate and 5–15 centimetres (2.0–5.9 in) long. The flowers are white, with five petals and numerous stamens.
Etymology and regional names
Another term for guavas is peru, derived from pear. It is common in countries bordering the western Indian Ocean and probably derives from Spanish or Portuguese. In the Indian subcontinent and Middle-East, guava is called amrood, possibly a variant of armoot meaning "pear" in Arabic and Turkish languages.
Psidium species are used as food plants by the caterpillars of some Lepidoptera, mainly moths like the Ello Sphinx (Erinnyis ello), Eupseudosoma aberrans, E. involutum, and Hypercompe icasia. Mites like Pronematus pruni and Tydeus munsteri are known be crop pests the Apple Guava (P. guajava) and perhaps other species. The bacterium Erwinia psidii causes rot diseases of the Apple Guava.
The fruit is not only relished by humans, but by many mammals and birds as well. The spread of introduced guavas owes much to this fact, since animals eat the fruit and disperse the seeds in their droppings.
In several tropical regions, including Hawaii and Florida, some species (namely Strawberry Guava, P. littorale, and to a lesser extent Apple Guava) have become invasive species. On the other hand, several species have become very rare due to habitat destruction and at least one (Jamaican Guava, P. dumetorum), is already extinct.
Guava fruit, usually 4 to 12 centimetres (1.6 to 4.7 in) long, are round or oval depending on the species. They have a pronounced and typical fragrance, similar to lemon rind but less sharp. The outer skin may be rough, often with a bitter taste, or soft and sweet. Varying between species, the skin can be any thickness, is usually green before maturity, but becomes yellow, maroon, or green when ripe. The pulp inside may be sweet or sour, and off-white ("white" guavas) to deep pink ("red" guavas). The seeds in the central pulp vary in number and hardness, depending on species.
Mature trees of most species are fairly cold-hardy and can survive temperatures slightly colder than 25 °F (−4 °C) for short periods of time, but younger plants will likely freeze to the ground. Guavas are grown in South Florida as far north as Sarasota, on the west coast, and Fort Pierce, on the east coast. However, they are a primary host of the Caribbean Fruit Fly and must be protected against infestation in areas of Florida where this pest is present.
Guavas are also of interest to home growers in temperate areas. They are one of the few tropical fruits that can grow to fruiting size in pots indoors. When grown from seed, guavas can bear fruit as soon as two years, or as long as eight years.
In Mexico, the guava agua fresca beverage is popular. The entire fruit is a key ingredient in punch, and the juice is often used in culinary sauces (hot or cold), as well as artisan candies, dried snacks, fruit bars, desserts, or dipped in Chamoy. Pulque de Guava is a popular blend of the native alcoholic beverage.
In many countries, guava is eaten raw, typically cut into quarters or eaten like an apple, whereas in other countries it's eaten with a pinch of salt and pepper, cayenne powder or a mix of spices (masala). It is known as the winter national fruit of Pakistan. In the Philippines, ripe guava is used in cooking sinigang. Guava is a popular snack in Taiwan, sold on many street corners and night markets during hot weather, accompanied by packets of dried plum powder mixed with sugar and salt for dipping. In east Asia, guava is commonly eaten with sweet and sour dried plum powder mixtures. Guava juice is popular in many countries. The fruit is also often prepared in fruit salads.
Because of its high level of pectin, guavas are extensively used to make candies, preserves, jellies, jams, and marmalades (such as Brazilian goiabada and Colombian and Venezuelan bocadillo), and also for juices and aguas frescas or may be used in a marmalade jam on toast.
Red guavas can be used as the base of salted products such as sauces, substituting for tomatoes, especially to minimize acidity. A drink may be made from an infusion of guava fruits and leaves which in Brazil is called chá-de-goiabeira, i.e. "tea" of guava tree leaves, considered medicinal.
Guavas are rich in dietary fiber and vitamin C, with moderate levels of folic acid. Having a generally broad, low-calorie profile of essential nutrients, a single common guava (P. guajava) fruit contains about four times the amount of vitamin C as an orange.
However, nutrient content varies across guava cultivars. Although the strawberry guava (P. littorale var. cattleianum) has about 25% of the amount found in more common varieties, its total vitamin C content in one serving (90 mg) still provides 100% of the Dietary Reference Intake.
Guavas contain both carotenoids and polyphenols like (+)-gallocatechin, guaijaverin, leucocyanidin and amritoside–the major classes of antioxidant pigments – giving them relatively high potential antioxidant value among plant foods. As these pigments produce the fruit skin and flesh color, guavas that are red-orange have more pigment content as polyphenol, carotenoid and pro-vitamin A, retinoid sources than yellow-green ones.
Potential medical uses
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Since the 1950s, guavas – particularly the leaves – have been the subject for diverse research on their constituents, pharmacological properties and history in folk medicine. Most research, however, has been conducted on apple guava (P. guajava), with other species remaining unstudied. From preliminary medical research in laboratory models, extracts from apple guava leaves or bark are implicated in therapeutic mechanisms against cancer, bacterial infections, inflammation and pain. Essential oils from guava leaves display anti-cancer activity in vitro.
Guava leaves are used in folk medicine as a remedy for diarrhea and, as well as the bark, for their supposed antimicrobial properties and as an astringent. Guava leaves or bark are used in traditional treatments against diabetes. In Trinidad, a tea made from young leaves is used for diarrhea, dysentery and fever.
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