It’s guayaba season here in Fila Naranjo, which means the trees are full of this fresh, delicious fruit and the grounds are covered in old, mushy, ripe guayabas that have matured and created a soft, slippery, fermented rug that covers all the land here in the beautiful mountains of Costa Rica.
Before coming to Fila Naranjo, I had never had a guayaba (guava) in my life. I had tasted guava juice, guava kombucha, guava flavored jellies and jams, but never had the real deal. Guava kombucha is one of my favorites, I love the floral, unique, semi-acidic flavor of guayaba so when I first spotted a guayaba tree here, I was stoked.
I plucked one straight from the tree in the middle of long, laborious day working at the finca and held it up to my nose for just a minute to breathe in the aroma. It was such a Peace Corps moment. Here I was, working in the fields alongside a group of local women and I stumble upon a fresh fruit tree. How cool is this?! This is why you’re here Tily, for these small beautiful organic moments. I embraced the moment so hard I took a seat under the guava tree and ate 4 guavas. Can you believe it?! Four.
After scarfing down my fill of guayabas, I headed back up to the other side of the finca to find a few ladies doing the same. But it was the weirdest thing, they were all pulling apart the fruit and throwing the middle seeded part onto the ground. I asked one of them if she was throwing out the middle because she didn’t like the texture of the seeds and then…I learned what gusano meant.
Gusano is the Spanish word for worm or maggot. When guayabas turn the slightest bit soft, fruit flies lay their eggs beneath the fruit’s skin and the maggots are born inside and feed on the fruit’s succulent flesh.
Francinia held her guayaba up to me to show me the center, a center that was filled with tiny, white worms wiggling between the fruit’s flesh-colored seeds; a center that appeared very much like the center of the guayabas I had just consumed moments earlier.
So, if you ever find yourself wrapped up in an organic moment underneath a guayaba tree, just make sure you take out the center.
In honor of guayaba season and lessons learned, we’ll kick off the Fruits and Flavors of Fila Naranjo Part #2 with the guava/guayaba.
Guava / Guayaba
Taste: floral, tropical, a little bitter and acidic when still green
Look: green on the outside and either pink or white on the inside with tiny hard seeds (and gusanos)
How we eat it: raw or boiled with cinnamon and rice (then blended) to make a juice (just remember to take out the inside)
Benefits: immunity booster, rich in vitamin B3, B6, K, C and A, proteins and fiber, improves complexion (use it as a mask!), lowers risk of cancer
**The guayaba pictured here is at the perfect point for eating. No gusanos.
Taste: like a damp sock
Look: giant booger / alien baby
How we eat it: blended into a juice with water and lime. Served up shot style
Benefits: fights inflammation, anti fungal/bacteria, improves memory, lowers cholesterol, good for skin and hair
Taste: like heaven
Look: depends on the variety
How we eat it: raw or verde (green, when it’s still hard) with a lil salt on top
Benefits: improves digestion, eye health, clear skin, prevents cancer, lowers cholesterol
** I know this pic is about the mango but can we just take a moment to celebrate that perfect egg I cooked?
Raspberries / Mora
Taste: slightly drier and less sweet than raspberries in the United States
Look: scarlet red
How we eat it: raw or blended as a juice
Benefits: packed with antioxidants, high in potassium, boosts memory, mood, and immunity
Bananas / Bananos
Taste: like a banana
Look: smaller versions of the bananas in the United States
How we eat it: raw when they are maduro (mature/yellow) and boiled/cooked and served as a side dish when they are green
Benefits: lowers risk of depression, high in potassium and iron
Beans / Frijoles
Taste: earthy, rich (side note: fresh beans are completely different than dried or canned beans. Serious game changer.)
Look: plump (real plump), a light reddish color or black depending on the type
How we eat it: boiled with herbs, onions, and garlic, served with rice
Benefits: high in fiber, natural source of protein, low in fat and cholesterol, high in calcium, B6, folate, and potassium
Root of Papaya / La Raíz de Papaya
Taste: bland, crunchy, sort of reminds me of a water chestnut
Look: white after cutting around the outer root
How we eat it: chopped, boiled and sauteed as a picadillo (chopped veggie side dish). This type of comida is usually reserved for weddings and special events (like a gringa coming to town) since it can be difficult to dig up and prepare.
Benefits: prevents inflammation, promotes kidney health, full of antioxidants
Peace Palm / Pejibayes
Taste: nutty, squash-like, fibrous, thick and hearty (hah i’m just the worst taste describer)
Look: like miniature, yellow versions of an acorn squash with a soft outer layer
How we eat it: boiled and peeled. Some people like to put mayonnaise in the center.
Benefits: these little guys are packed full of nutrients! energy booster, high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, stimulates new cell growth.