I remember the first time I gathered a haul of feijoas from under a friend's tree. From the outside they looked perfect — green and heavy and firm — but when I got them home and cut them open they were brown inside, with a rank odour and foul taste. I was new to feijoas and I really wondered what all the fuss was about.
Luckily, not long after, some Gisborne friends introduced me to the perfectly ripe feijoa experience. It was one of those food moments that makes you gasp – the flesh was juicy and tropically fragrant, with pretty whorls of luscious jellied seed pods, sweet yet tart, and utterly, utterly delicious. It was so good that I got a government grant to undertake a feasibility study into making feijoa icecream. Unfortunately this was before commercial feijoa production had properly emerged and the inconsistency of fruit quality had me stumped. The one thing I did learn was that feijoas and dairy products are a match made in heaven!
Feijoas drop from the tree at the moment of perfect ripeness. Try to pluck them off the branches too early and you will be disappointed – they will be sour, hard and dry. A light shake of the tree to see which fruit fall is okay, and a catch-net under the tree is a good idea.
Collect the fruit every few days and store them in the fridge. They will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks without deteriorating.
Over-ripe, the flesh develops an unpleasant flavour and odour — in the way that over-ripe avocados do. And, as the fruit ripens from the inside, it can look perfect from the outside but once you cut it open may be brown inside.
The best way to ascertain ripeness is to slice the fruit in half — if the five little whorls of seed pulp have turned to clear jelly with no hint of browning, then the fruit is perfectly ripe. If they are still hard and dry, it isn't.
Remove the skins before eating as they have a strong, almost turpentine, flavour. Either peel the feijoas or halve them and scoop out the flesh. The flesh oxidises rapidly, so it's best to have a bowl of lightly acidulated water at hand to place the fruit into as you peel or scoop. If you are planning to use feijoas in a fruit salad, drizzle them with a little lemon or lime juice to prevent them from browning (add a little honey or sugar as desired).
Once you've eaten your fill straight from the spoon, you'll be looking for ways to use up the rest of your harvest. This week's recipes are all delicious ways to make the most of this fragrant fruit.
Baked Feijoas with Almond Crumble Topping
Ready in 25 mins
6 large feijoas, halved lengthwise
½ cup flaked almonds
½ cup ground almonds
2 Tbsp desiccated or shredded coconut
2 Tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 200C and line an oven tray with baking paper. Place feijoas on prepared tray. Combine all other ingredients and divide between the feijoas. Bake until lightly golden (12-15 minutes). Serve hot or at room temperature, scooping the fruit out of the skins.
Annabel says: This is such a pretty dessert, and goes well with vanilla ice cream or greek yoghurt. The cooked fruit will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.
Ginger and Cardamom Poached Feijoas
Ready in 15 mins
12 feijoas, peeled and halved
1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
1 tsp ground ginger
8 cardamom pods, crushed with the back of a knife
Greek yoghurt, to serve (optional)
Gently simmer all ingredients for 10 minutes. Remove and discard cardamom pods, then cool and chill until needed or up to 5 days. Serve chilled, with Greek yoghurt if desired.
Annabel says: Stewed feijoas make excellent breakfast fruit and are useful as a base for a range of wonderful desserts. They also bottle well. Fill cooked fruit into hot, sterilised jars, and overflow with boiling syrup before sealing with screw-top lids. It's a taste of Kiwiana like no other.
Feijoa Pan Puff
Ready in 45 mins
¼ cup flour
2 Tbsp caster sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp maple syrup or honey
4-5 feijoas, peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp apple liqueur (optional) icing sugar, to dust Softly whipped cream, to serve (optional)
To make the batter, mix together flour, sugar and cinnamon. Add milk, eggs and vanilla and whisk to form a smooth batter. Melt 1 Tbsp butter, add to mixture and stir until evenly combined. Set aside while you prepare the fruit. The batter can be prepared in advance and will keep for 6-8 hours in the fridge. Preheat oven to 200C fanbake. Place remaining 1 Tbsp butter and maple syrup or honey in a large (26-28cm diameter) ovenproof frying pan or roasting dish. Heat until mixture sizzles and starts to brown, then add feijoas. Cook over medium heat until it has softened and starts to caramelise (6-8 minutes). Add liqueur, if using, and allow to fully evaporate. The fruit can be prepared in advance to this point, chilled and reheated when needed. Pour batter over hot fruit and bake until golden and puffy around the edges (about 25 minutes). Dust with icing sugar and serve with whipped cream if desired.
Annabel says: Like all clafoutis-style desserts this puffs up dramatically as it cooks and then collapses as it cools — but it tastes good hot or cold. Once the feijoas are over their short-lived season you can swap them for pears or apples.