Thursday, May 16, 2013

Feijoa Flowers--Or--Pineapple Guava Petal Pull

Yesterday I made sorbet. Today I made frozen pops. If I had more of what I needed tomorrow, I'd make a fruit salad. And it's all because of this little flower from a feijoa bush, also know as pineapple guava.

These flowers are edible. You might have gathered that. But let me assure you, really, they are deliciously edible. I got my first batch of them this weekend from the market. I had moseyed over to the stall for Towani Organic Farm when all of the sudden, co-owner Guy Baldwin pauses as he sees me, raises his finger, and says, "I have something for you."

Before I even saw them I was delighted. Last summer Guy introduced me to an heirloom variety of collard greens--shiny instead of dull, and tasting somehow different, but I couldn't figure out how. In the fall he gave me the idea to make margaritas out of the prickly pear he sold me. And there is something convincing, even if ridiculous, about the lettuce I buy every week from him (whether I need it or not), packed around a little wooden sign with "the worlds best lettuce" written in black ink. Every week I believe the outrageous. And to tell you the truth, every week I am glad I did.

So you might imagine I had high hopes when Guy said he had something for me.

He pulled out a little bag of flowers, opened it up, and as he picked off a petal and popped it in his mouth, he said they were the flowers of the pineapple guava bush. He looked to the side and nibbled the petal with his front teeth. "They're sweet," he said, and motioned me to try. Then he added, "most people know them as feijoa around here, but I call them pineapple guava."

I nodded and picked a petal. As I pulled, the fleshy petal resisted more than I expected, and when it gave, it made a little popping sound--like it was deeply attached. I nibbled it first, and was surprised. He was right! It tasted sweet, reminiscent of strawberries and cinnamon and pineapple. Later, the sorbet I made from the petals reminded me of coconut, but I've not heard that one anywhere else.

It didn't take me long after taking them home, making the sorbet, and looking them up to want more. I have a terribly black thumb (opposite of green thumb, for those who have yet to hear such a descriptive term), which we can talk about if you're interested, but suffice to say I've been looking for plants, trees, flowers, and shrubs that are what I call abuse-tolerant. Around here, that means tolerant of heat and drought and wind but also to a little too much cold. The pineapple guava seems to be just such a plant.

Unfortunately, for all my openness to fun, varied, and odd fruit experiments, I have not yet met a guava or pineapple guava I've liked. So to find out that these flowers are not only usable and not only edible, but really the best tasting flower I've had yet, is kind of exciting. This might be more than just a spring fling. This could be the real deal.

Like a true non-gardening hoarder, I couldn't wait long enough to plant a plant. When I showed Kevin the bag of flowers on Saturday, he had laughed. He could have sworn he saw a squirrel eating those same flowers from a tree at the house he was working on. He could get me some, he thought.

And he was right. The birds and the squirrels love this flower. But so do I! I called him at work on Tuesday. He asked the owner, Judy, about her tree. And no, she didn't do anything with them or with the fruit either. It is one of those edibles that often gets relegated to the compost pile or garbage heap or bird's belly. Because we don't really like the fruit. Because we don't know we can eat anything else. Because we wouldn't know what to do with any of it aside from throw them in salads or make the fruit into jelly.

So Judy helped me pick my second round of feijoa flowers, and I made the pops. They taste pretty good with strawberries, but the petals I munched with some (astonishing, early-ripening) blueberries were the best.

I could see the petals in a yogurt, granola, and fruit breakfast, that ubiquitous salad, atop a cake, in a bowl of Grape Nuts, or steeped into tea.

But I used the bag of feijoa flowers like Guy said to: crushed into a simple syrup to make sorbet. I'm on the lookout right now for cold desserty things, and this one is perfect. I thought it could possibly be too sweet, but Kevin doesn't agree. We do agree, however, that the sorbet recipe would make incredible pops. If you get ambitious, make a blueberry sorbet/pop mix too and layer them. That is what I'll do next time.

So just in case you are reading: thanks, Guy, for another grand introduction. And thank you to Judy too, for letting me loot your tree! 

Now, to get myself a bush of my own...


Feijoa or Pineapple Guava Flower Sorbet

I used sparkling water that had been sitting around too long here. It tastes just different enough from filtered water to make it interesting. If yours is not flat, all the better! Just be aware that processing will create a magnitude of bubbles. Don't expect a very fizzy end-product.

3 cups sparkling water (flat or bubbly) or filtered water
1- 1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup feijolei petals

In a food processor combine the petals and sugar and mix until the sugar resembles wet sand. Scrape down the sides, being sure the corners of the processor bowl are cleared. Process again for a minute or two, then slowly add the sparkling water, bit by bit. You want the sugar to completely dissolve.

When all the sugar is dissolved, process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions or pour into popsicle molds and freeze accordingly. If it is the sorbet you've made,  serve with a topping of berries (blueberries are perfect, but strawberries are delightful too) and a sprinkling of more petals for fun. Regardless of what shape your sweet becomes, enjoy!

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