Not only are there a couple ways to spell guyaba (“guyaba” and “guayaba” are both prevalent out there in the world wide web, with apparently no real distinguishing characteristics,) but today I learned a new way of eating guyaba.
This morning was the first real hard rain of the year. Though the storm didn’t last long, there was a good intense downpour around 10am. After the sun popped back out, while the light was vibrant and the landscape still wet, I went out to harvest some lettuce for a salad I was making for a lunch meeting that Dore, Irma and I were having with our environmentalist city public works commissioner Paula Daniels.
As I was clipping lettuce leaves, a car pulled up. “Hello” shouted a woman’s voice. I wasn’t sure that she was talking to me, but I looked up and she asked me if I was the owner of this tree, pointing at the guayaba. The woman stepped out of the car. The car was still running with her apparent husband impatiently looking on from the driver’s seat. She was a woman of color (a Bengladeshi, I later learned), dressed in handsome turquoise blue and wearing a small nose-piercing. She asked if she could buy some fruit. I told her that it was ok for her to take a couple. I grabbed a couple that were ripe – nearly all yellow. She said, no, she wanted green ones. Not solid dark green, but kind of middle green with just a hint of yellow. She picked a couple which seemed to me would be way too firm to eat. She handed me one and said “take a bite.” I did and it tasted great. It’s about the consistency of a firm apple. Nearly all the flavor seems to be in the skin. The flavor is a bit like a sweet lime taste… but that’s just an association – the fruit has its very own taste. She asked for my phone number so she could call me to get more fruit in the future; she said she had come by before and hadn’t wanted to take any fruit without asking. I gave her my name and number on a card. She got back in the car and was off. I finished off the green guyaba and harvested lettuce, radish, carrot and basil for the salad.
After lunch, I saw three very young Latino kids in my garden under the tree. I asked them in Spanish to be careful about stepping on my plants. They seemed sort of nervous. Then I realized that I hadn’t noticed that their mother was climbing up in the guyaba tree. It’s not that big a tree, maybe 15-20 feet tall. She came down. In Spanish, I told her that I’d already picked the yellow fruit this morning and that she was breaking the tree. She said that her kids really wanted the fruit. Ironically she is a street vendor that sells junk food to families and kids coming out of the White House Place Primary Center school across the street. She pointed out to me a good-sized mostly-yellow fruit up in the tree.
I was able to stand on one of the broken concrete walls of the planting beds and reach up into the tree and bend a branch slightly down to pick the fruit. I handed it to the woman. I would’ve let it ripen for another day, but she immediately broke it up into three pieces and gave them to her children. They happily ate it. Then she walked off to peddle her highly-processed food-like substances (mostly clear bags of these crunchy wagon-wheel shaped savory things – a little like chicharones – can anyone tell me what they’re actually called?) to the families waiting for school to get out. At the same time I had grabbed the yellow fruit for her, I’d spotted a good-sized yellow-green fruit and harvested it for myself. I walked back up to my apartment, gobbling down the tasty green fruit.
Another tale of the guyaba: A couple weeks ago, just after my last guyaba blog entry, I was gardening and a young woman asked if she could pick leaves from the guyaba. She explained that she was pregnant and stated that she had allergies, pointing to her legs. She couldn’t take allergy medicine due to her pregnancy (which wasn’t visually apparent), so she needed these leaves, apparently to rub on her skin. Her English was fine, but just a little bit broken, and when she described her allergy and need for the leaves, my neighbor Aurisha and I must have given her skeptical looks – neither of us having known that the tree has any medicinal purposes. The woman responded “I’m filipina” as if that was the justification that explained everything. We welcomed her to take what she needed. I helped her to harvest leaves, directing her to take ones from branches that are encroaching over the ramp path down to the sidewalk (that get in my way when I bike down the ramp.) She was really grateful.
All in a couple days in the life of the Los Angeles Eco-Village guyaba tree.