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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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guava the fruit of the small, shrubby tree Psidium guajava, native to C. America and the W. Indies, is now grown in tropical and subtropical regions around the world, especially India, SE Asia, and Hawaii. There are several other species in the genus with good fruits, and the name ‘guava’ is applied loosely to most of them.

The oldest known traces of guava as a human food date from about 800 bc, from archaeological sites in Peru. The tree was probably first cultivated there, but had spread as far north as Mexico by 200 bc. Europeans first met the fruit when they made their earliest voyage to Haiti, where the local name for it was guayavu. Spanish and Portuguese mariners soon spread the tree and its name to other regions. In the 17th century it was well established in India and SE Asia, and has remained popular there ever since.