It’s been three Autumns since we moved back to suburban Auckland, and discovered we had a feijoa tree. Three years since the anticipation of having our own feijoas was quickly followed by the sense of being overwhelmed by bags and bowls of rapidly perishing fruit.
I think I have managed to bring my feelings in check and a sense of mental order to the annual feijoa fall, and this year at least, we are managing to cook, eat, or share, our daily lawnful. Their short season and poor keeping qualities mean it’s not a harvest you can have hanging around. I now know who will take them with pleasure, and aren’t just taken aback by another offer of feijoas.
I have come back to enthusiasm for this delicious fruit we Kiwis have made our own. Like Christmas, the annual season brings its familiar traditions: collecting the overnight fruit drop dotted with morning dew; cutting, scooping, gorging; leaving in bagfuls at work or on doorsteps, or even outside on the berm “take them!”; baking, chutney-making and recipe swapping. I love how often the word feijoa appears so often in April conversations.
Some streets in Auckland have feijoa trees right along the berms and attract walkers and carloads who come and pick up the windfall.
But while the suburbs continue with their perennial tradition, in the commercial food world the feijoa has finally come of age, or indeed of existence at all. When I was a child the feijoa had little visibility outside the annual season.
But now it is on store shelves year-round. Major alcoholic and soft drink lines seems to carry feijoa variants, from Pheonix and Charlie’s through to the ciders like Old Mout. My grandmother’s feijoa wine was a quirky flavour, but she was well ahead of the trend curve.
A year or two after I moved to London in 2002 a NZ visitor arrived with the best possible gift: a bottle of Feijoa 42 Below vodka. Liquid feijoa after several years without that distinctive smell and flavour (with the vodka a plus) was pretty special.
But the best way to enjoy this short-seasoned, most community-oriented of fruit is to sit down with a teaspoon, a knife and a big bag of them until stuffed.