I have a beautiful feijoa tree in my backyard that’s likely 30 (or more) years old, and every spring it blossoms with clusters of small (and amazingly sweet) pink and white edible flowers. In the summer these flowers turn into dull green, egg-shaped and egg-sized fruits called feijoas (Acca sellowiana).
They’re native to Brazil and were named after a Portuguese (but Brazilian-born) botanist, João da Silva Feijó. (And apparently, I’ve been saying the name wrong these last couple of years. The Brazilian name, feijoa, is pronounced fay-ZHOE-uh, where the “zh” sounds like the “s” in pleasure.)
I don’t see very many feijoa trees (or fruits, for that matter) in California, though it’s a popular and prolific garden plant in New Zealand where the fruit is widely available. It’s also known as pineapple-guava or guavasteen, and a bite into the flesh reminds me of pineapple, guava, and a bit of pear, because the flesh near the skin is slightly gritty.
Though it seems like you can find feijoas anywhere in New Zealand (and people seldom pay for them because they’ll likely have a neighbor giving away armfuls at a time), they’re less common in California. If you can find a farmers’ market that carries them, they command a pretty penny… and that little fact makes me chuckle, because from September through November, my feijoa tree drops buckets upon buckets of fruit. Buckets! (This is just from the morning harvest… which means that later in the day, when I head back outside to harvest things for dinner, I’ll find another bucket’s worth waiting on the ground for me.)
It’s impossible to keep up with and last year I composted half of my harvest… after eating, canning, cooking and giving away what seemed like hundreds of pounds of fruit. Granted, the half that I did compost were mostly bruised or half-eaten by squirrels; feijoas drop to the ground once they’re ripe, and they tend to have delicate skin despite feeling rock hard.
This year, as feijoa season is starting with a vengeance, I’m determined to put as many of the fruits to use as possible. Eating one or two a day just isn’t going to cut it. I need to plow through pounds and pounds of this stuff, and for those of you drowning under feijoa trees in your own backyard, this will be the first in a three-part series. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll present to you Feijoa Three Ways: three easy recipes for taking those fruits deliciously down.
My first, feijoa salsa, is so simple that I wonder why I didn’t make it sooner. It’s fresh and zesty, and makes a great dip for chips but an even better topping for fish (whether you like it steamed, grilled or fried, by itself or in a taco).
I use Vietnamese perilla (tía tô) as the herb in my salsa, which gives the flavor an incredible, fragrant kick. Perilla is a member of the mint family and most commonly used in Asian cooking. It tastes like a cross between mint and basil. You can find it in any Vietnamese/Chinese market, or in a Japanese market where it’s called shiso. The leaves are green on one side and purple on the other, though some varieties are all green or all purple.
While you’re at the Asian market buying a bundle of perilla, pick up a package of Thai bird’s eye chilies too (it will probably take you a while to go through them, but they freeze very well). These tiny red and green peppers are the fire behind Thai food. If you’re not a fan of spicy salsa, reduce the amount in the recipe to just one chili.
You can also substitute cilantro and jalapeño for these two ingredients, but I highly recommend you try the more “exotic” version if you’re able to source the perilla and chilies!
And by the way, I ended up making 2 jars of this salsa which used up nearly 30 ripe feijoas — or an entire morning’s harvest. Yes! (I’ll be making plenty more. I love this stuff.)
Makes 1 quart
10 to 15 feijoas, peeled and finely diced
1/2 red onion, diced
2 Thai bird’s eye chiles, minced
2 tablespoons chopped Vietnamese perilla
Juice from 1 lemon
After peeling and dicing the feijoas, you should have 3 to 3 1/2 cups of fruit.
Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl, then decant into your container of choice (this amount fits perfectly into a quart-sized jar).
I like to let the salsa sit for a couple of hours to really let the flavors meld together, but you can dig in right away if you wish. The salsa will keep for at least a week or two in the fridge.