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Ann Wright: November surprises

November offers some wonderful garden surprises. This was the case when a friend offered me a bag of an unfamiliar fruit: two to three inch-long ovals, light dusty green with the most marvelous aroma; sort of tropical. Previously unknown to me, my friend shared these flavorful little fruits— pineapple guava is the common name, Feijoa sellowiana is the scientific name. From the family of Myrtaceae, this intriguing fruit ripens and falls in late October or early November. Growing in Sunset zones 7-9, this multi-stemmed, evergreen shrub reaches 18 to 20-feet high. Feijoa sellowiana is native to South America, and has been grown commercially in California and other parts of the world.

The oval-shaped leaves are shiny green on top, silvery-white underneath and are about two to three inches long. Blooming in the spring, the Feijoa flowers are lovely and ornate with tufts of red stamen surrounded by pink and white petals. In addition to the soft white, juicy pulp of the fruit, the flowers are also edible, adding flavor and color to fruit and green salads. Attracting birds and pollinators when in bloom, deer are generally known to avoid this plant, although fawns may take an initial taste but then leave it alone.

Once established, the Feijoa plant is tolerant of drought, but will produce more fruit with regular water (20 to 30 minutes deep water three times a week). Growing in full sun here in the foothills, the plant may do better if protected a bit from the hottest afternoon sun. Fruit and flower production requires only 50 chill hours per year. (Chill hours are accumulated from November through February where night-time temperatures are between 32 and 45 degrees. In most parts of Northern California, chill hours average 800 to 1,500, depending on elevation and microclimates.) As winter rain sets in, from now until early spring is a good time to plant potted Feijoa shrubs.



According to the UC Davis Fruit and Nut Fact Sheet there are a number of cultivars of the Feijoa that require cross-pollination. The Sunset Western Garden book, also lists good fruiting varieties such as ‘Apollo’, ‘Coolidge’, ‘Mammoth’ and ’Trask’. Some are self-fruitful, although having more than one plant will encourage higher fruit yields. (https://fruitsandnuts.ucanr.edu/dsadditions/Feijoa_Fact_Sheet/ ).

Another lovely surprise each fall are the orange, flavorful fruits of the persimmon.



Boasting shiny gold to orange skin, persimmons (Diospyros kaki) are late bloomers. Persimmon trees adapt to a variety of conditions and fewer than 100 chilling hours for fruiting. However, because of the few chill hours required for bloom, persimmons may break dormancy in spring causing them to be more prone to spring frost injury.

Tolerant of wet winters and dry summers, persimmon grow best in well drained loamy soil, cultivated to allow growth of deep tap roots. Persimmons are considered to be fairly drought tolerant but like the Feijoa, fruit production will improve with some regular irrigation during dry summer months. Persimmon trees also need space, and may grow to a height of 20 feet or more, depending on variety.

In the United States, persimmons date back to the late 1850s when introduced as seed from Asia. Although the U.S. native, Diospyros virginiana, has been documented, Asian cultivars originating in Japan and China have gained wide-spread popularity in this country. By the 1930s there were thousands of persimmons growing in California.

The Hachiya and Fuyu cultivars do well in our area and are found readily available at grower’s markets, grocery stores and from gracious neighbors! Classified as astringent (Hachiya) and non-astringent (Fuyu), persimmon fruit can be a surprise to the unknowing. The Hachiya variety is acorn-shaped and should be allowed to soften abundantly before consumption. The astringency of the Hachiya is based on the high levels of tannin in the fruit. As the fruit softens and ripens, tannins will dissipate, leaving behind a mushy jelly-like wonder with a burst of flavor. Having been surprised to find the feel of bitter cotton wads in the mouth, one may quickly learn that these guys need to ripen. But what a treat when they do!

More surprises are ahead as we look toward another growing season next spring. Master Gardeners of Nevada County will be right alongside home gardeners with a slate of public workshops for 2022 – hopefully in person at either the Elks Lodge or the Demonstration Garden, depending on weather. As “giving Tuesday” approaches on Nov. 30 we hope you will consider a donation to our UCCE Master Gardener program. Donation information, as well as workshop updates, and other information is available on our website at https://ncmg.ucanr.org/ .

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener

Feijoa sellowiana is native to South America, and has been grown commercially in California and other parts of the world. Blooming in the spring, the Feijoa flowers are lovely and ornate with tufts of red stamen surrounded by pink and white petals.
Getty Images
Boasting shiny gold to orange skin, persimmons (Diospyros kaki) are late bloomers. Persimmon trees adapt to a variety of conditions and fewer than 100 chilling hours for fruiting.
Photo by Ann Wright

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