A sweet, musky guava (Psidium guajava) is a treat you can squeeze right into a cobbler, toss into a salad or process into a rich jelly. Cooking and eating the fruit — cold hardy down to U.S. Department of Agriculture planting zone 10 — is particularly satisfying when you grow it yourself. Though a guava continues to ripen even after you pick it, the best-tasting fruit is fully ripened on the tree. Since the fruit quickly goes from rock tough to mush, you want to learn how to gauge the fruit’s adulthood to use it straight after picking.
Take note of when the tree blossoms; the fruit ripens 90 to 150 days after flowering depending on temperature and the amount of water they receive — more of both speeds ripening. While the tree can blossom and make fruit lawns, there’s usually a flush of bloom in the spring having one major harvest in summer and another in late autumn if temperatures don’t drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Look at the color of the fruit skin. Guavas are green when fully mature, ripening to light yellow or green with a touch of pink, depending on the cultivar.
Smell the fruit. The scent of the fruit strengthens noticeably when it becomes ripe, becoming a sweet, musky odor you can smell without bringing the fruit into your nose. The California Rare Fruit Growers fact sheet on guavas describes it as “pungent and penetrating.”
Press gently on the fruit, it gives slightly under pressure when completely ripe.