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The Costa Rica guava, an atypical fruit and now an ice cream

As its name suggests, the Costa Rica guava (Psidium friedrichsthalium Ndz.) originated in Costa Rica. It is a round or oval yellow fruit with a sweet/acid taste, somewhere between its "cousin" the guava and a passionfruit.

CIRAD imported this fruit tree into Réunion in 1993, as part of a plan to diversify agriculture in the humid highlands. To develop well in Réunion, the species has to be grown at heights of between 200 and 600 m above sea level, in which case it can produce up to 140 kg of fruit and may even double its yields after a devastating cyclone. The current production potential is estimated at around 15 tonnes a year.

Only two producers are currently growing Costa Rica guavas in Réunion, under the watchful eye of CIRAD, and until now, most of what they produce has been used by small-scale ice cream makers. However, the agrifood industry has also shown an interest in the past year or so. For instance, Glaces de Bourbon, a subsidiary of the CILAM (Compagnie laitière des Mascareignes) group, recently launched a new Costa Rica guava ice cream in supermarkets. The fruit has several good points: its distinctive flavour on the one hand, but above all its high vitamin C content (twelve times higher than oranges and three times higher than guavas).

The crop management sequence developed by CIRAD under a project aimed at diversifying agriculture in the highlands of Réunion limits the use of inputs and guarantees a "clean" crop. There had not previously been any technical references on this fruit, which was not grown commercially anywhere in the world: in its zone of origin, it was primarily grown in gardens and only occasionally in orchards.

If the product proves popular with consumers, it is likely to provide new outlets and enable the development of Costa Rica guava growing in the humid highlands. To satisfy future demand for the fruits, CIRAD is already storing plants, so as to plant new plots rapidly. These plots would serve both to provide new technical references and to supply the agrifood industry.

Helen Burford | alfa
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