A guava tree is more than just a source of delicious fruit – it’s a health haven. The leaves have been used for centuries for their medicinal properties, while the fruit can be eaten fresh, or processed into jams, juices, and pies. Although a tree might take a while to grow, you can cultivate your own guavas at home.
According to Kwanele Dlamini, a soil scientist and agronomist based in Johannesburg, after sowing, a guava tree requires three years to reach maturity.
These fruits are primarily grown in the Western Cape, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga. Ideal temperatures range between 23 and 28 degrees Celsius.
The benefits of owning a guava tree
Zaza Mbatha from Osizweni in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, finds it truly amazing to have a guava tree. She brews guava leaves into a tea for detoxification purposes.
She explains that guava leaves are widely recognised for their ability to enhance the immune system. As a result, in her household, it is customary for everyone to consume at least one cup of guava-leaf tea per week.
“We placed freshly washed guava tree leaves into boiling water and allowed them to simmer for a few minutes, we let it cool and drink.”
Her tree suffered a hailstorm in 2021, which caused it to dry out. She’s watering it and feeding it goat manure to rouse it up.
How to look after your tree
The trees require an annual rainfall of approximately 10 000mm; however, rainfall during the harvest period can diminish the fruit’s quality.
Dlamini explains that guavas need well-drained, thick clay to extremely light sandy soils with a pH between 4.5 and 8.2.
“Plant guava trees in warmer months with plenty of compost and prune (cut down branches) to a size of 2-3m in height. If planting more than one tree, plant them 2 to 3m apart.”
Regarding the variety of soil, Dlamini suggests that, if possible, your soil should be rich in nitrogen and phosphorus. Before planting a tree, the soil must be fertilised every three to four months for the first six to eight weeks while the tree is immature. Thereafter, fertilisation every three to four months is sufficient.
“Once the tree bears fruit, it can be pruned down 2-3 metres,” Dlamini advises.
Packed with health advantages
Sibongile Jiyane, a plant pathologist from Tshwane, says guavas are known to contain many nutrients that are beneficial to human health. One of these nutrients is vitamin C, which is abundant compared to other fruits.
She adds that there is no theory that identifies the risks associated with excessive consumption of any guava product, from foliage to fruit.
She says that the primary health benefits of guava for humans include moderating blood sugar levels, assisting with digestive system issues, aiding in weight loss, and possessing anti-cancer properties.
The different guava variations
Jiyane points out that there are two types of varieties: those with white flesh and pink flesh. She states that the white-fleshed guava is known to contain more vitamin C than the pink guava; however, the pink variety has a higher antioxidant content than the white-fleshed guava.
She notes that, though cooked or raw, guava does not vary, even after it has been cooked or roasted, the content of guava nutrients remains the same, thus still imparting the same health benefits.
She says that studies have shown that the leaves have some health benefits, such as treating gastroenteritis and regulating blood sugar.
She notes that the only concern is that pesticides have been used on most commercial guavas, and when tested for the presence of pesticide residue, high levels have been detected.
Furthermore, it has been shown that washing the guavas with water prior to consumption is ineffective at removing pesticide residue; therefore, it is recommended to peel the skin prior to consuming commercial products.
Straight from the guava tree to your hob
Jiyane tells Health For Mzansi that the leaves can be used to make tea, which when simmered, is known to aid in the treatment of diarrhoea and for those with irritable bowel syndrome.
“Studies have shown that guava leaf tea is more effective than painkillers in reducing period pains.”
Jiyane adds that guava leaf tea is also known to have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, which assist in fighting infections and eliminating bacteria.
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