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Guabiroba are small, round fruits measuring an average of 2 to 3 centimeters in diameter. The fruits mature from green to yellowish-green, then to a soft orange. They have a stiff calyx around the stem called a cup. The thin skin is bitter and inedible. Inside the fruit is a layer of firm, orange flesh and a soft, gelatinous center filled with small, edible seeds. The pulp is sweet and juicy.
Guabiroba is available in the fall and into the winter months.
Guabiroba, also known as Guabiroba da Mata, is botanically classified as Campomanesia xanthocarpa. It is a member of the myrtle family and a relative of the guava. Guabiroba is a rare fruit and has been included on the Slow Food Ark of Taste’s endangered foods list. The name of the fruit comes from the Guarani language meaning ‘tree bark bitter’. It has been used by the indigenous Brazilians as a folk medicine and culinary ingredient.
Guabiroba is a source of protein and carbohydrates and contains B-complex and C vitamins. The fruits are also a good source of iron, phosphorus and calcium. They contain flavonoids and phytonutrients that offer antioxidant benefits.
Guabiroba can be eaten fresh or can be cooked. The pulp can be scooped from the halved fruits or added to smoothies, breakfast bowls, fruit salads or mixed into yogurt. It can be cooked down to make jams or jellies or baked into desserts. The juice of the pulp is used to make liquor or flavor ice creams and other desserts. Guabiroba can be stored at room temperature for up to a week or refrigerated for extended storage. Pulp can be refrigerated for a few days and can be kept frozen for up to 6 months.
The Guabiroba bark, leaves and fruit have been used medicinally by the native people of the South American Atlantic Forest for centuries. The fruit and leaves have astringent properties and were used to help relieve pain, particularly toothaches. A decoction of leaves added to the bathwater was used to soothe and relax the muscles. The bark of the Guabiroba tree was used to treat digestive and bladder disorders.
Guabiroba is native to the Atlantic Forest and Cerrado savannah of South America, which cover a region running from central Brazil south to Argentina. There are believed to be 15 different varieties of Guabiroba that exist in this area. The short to medium-sized trees are most often found in the wild though they are cultivated on a very small scale by home growers and small farms. Deforestation and commercial cultivation of other crops like soybeans have led to a decrease in the species. Guabiroba trees grow best in hot and dry, sub-topical to tropical climates. They are available through a few online retailers who sell seedlings. The fruits are most likely spotted at local markets in South America.