One of my favorite things about working in the Costa Rica biomes is the diverse array of tropical fruit. Where else can I have a tasty, freshly picked tropical snack in the middle Cleveland? An especially delicious fruit that’s currently ripe in the Costa Rica biome is the strawberry guava, or Psidium cattelianum.
The strawberry guava tree in the Costa Rica biome
Native to tropical South America, the strawberry guava not only produces delicious fruit but is also a feast for the eyes. It has dark green, shiny ovate leaves, with showy, fragrant flowers. The bark is also smooth and peeling with various layered shades of brown. The tree is upright, multi-trunked and fairly small, typically seen in the range of 10-15 feet tall. All these characteristics have made it popular landscape plant in tropical climates, although it tends to be invasive in some areas, including Hawaii where it has invaded large areas of native forest. Luckily, it is well contained within the Costa Rica biome with no chance of invading Cleveland due to our chilly winters.
As its name suggests, the strawberry guava fruit has a strawberry flavor and pinky-red to burgundy color when ripe. The fruits start out green and ripen over several months. This year, it flowered in late spring with the first ripe fruit showing up in August. When fully ripe, the fruit are sweet and juicy. The skin is tender with a thin layer of flesh surrounding the inner pulp and numerous small seeds. While the seeds are edible, they’re about an eighth of an inch long, so I usually eat around them or spit them out. I’m not the only one reaching for a strawberry guava to munch on – they’re also a favorite for the many birds in the biomes! In fact, it can be difficult to find a perfectly ripe fruit that hasn’t been pecked apart, but when I do, it makes for a wonderful tropical snack. Yum!