Jambu Biji (Guava): Indonesia

by Barrie on February 12, 2007

by Barrie | February 12th, 2007  

I have never been a lover of Guava. The best guava, it is said, comes from Central Java. With an unsurmountable array of tropical fruits grown across the archipelago, Guava would be at the bottom of my shopping list at the local market.

However, it is popular in Indonesia as a fruit suitable for cooking and is delicious in stews and curries. Epicurean el supremo Suryatini N. Ganie wrote an interesting article about this exotic fruit.

Creative servings of guavas
Suryatini N. Ganie, Contributor

I enjoyed a perfect jambu biji or guava last week. Stopping at a roadside fruit stall, attracted by the reddish color of a guava placed by the vendor on top of the other guavas I bought some that looked plump and smelled fragrant. The woman selling the fruit explained that she got the guavas from Central Java. “They are sweet, I assure you”, she said offering me a piece to taste.

At home I stewed the guavas in traditional style as stoup, from the Dutch word stoof, or stew. I peeled and chopped the fruit and placed it in a pot, poured water into it until it covered the fruit and added some cinnamon sticks. After some 30 minutes on medium flame the fruit was ready to enjoy. It was really delicious and by adding a tablespoon of honey it was really a drink to remember.

“I am sure the mosquitoes won’t bite you anymore,” a friend who dropped by said, “and you’ll shake off that cold because guavas contain a lot vitamin C”, while helping herself to a glassful and adding ice cubes.

Well, it seems that guavas are coming into season at the right time, as during the rainy season people are susceptible to colds and flu.

People believe that eating plenty of guava in the early stages of a fever, can bring down the fever because of guava’s medicinal properties. Experts say that the guava contains more vitamin C than other fruit of the same variety. In 82 grams of jambu air (rose apple) there is only 5 mg of vitamin C and in jambu bol (Syzygium malaccensis) 22 mg. Actually the jambu monyet or monkey fruit which is mainly eaten for its nuts, the cashew nut, has more vitamin C but the insipid taste prevents people from eating the fruit.

Originating from far flung countries in Latin America, where the guava has been eaten for many centuries, the guava has also been a popular fruit in our archipelago for a long time. There are many varieties grown and it bears fruit all year long.

It grows in any type of soil and in both mountainous regions or in the lowlands. There is the jambu kelutuk sukun with no seeds, there is jambu kelutuk (Javanese for jambu biji or jambu batu) with either pinkish or creamy colored flesh. The pinkish colored ones are usually smaller than the ones with the cream colored flesh. The Sulawesi variety of the guava is called goyawas. One of the recent migrants is the jambu Bangkok, large, hard and not as sweet as the local variety. The trees are also much shorter.

According to experts there are more than 150 species of guava that grow in tropical environments.

The guava tree is also multifunctional. Besides the fruit, the leaves have many uses. For example, the leaves are boiled in water, which gives it a light brown color and then used to make white hen eggs turn light brown telur pindang which is a traditional preparation to accompany some regional rice dishes like the nasi gudeg from Yogyakarta or the sego liwet from Surakarta. Telur pindang also has a specific taste. Guava leaves boiled with papaya leaves, will remove the bitter taste of the papaya leaves.

As a medicinal drink people boil a handful of guava leaves in water and then drink half a cup for digestion problems.

As guava is often eaten raw, it is not suitable for toddlers, because of the large seeds and because it grows easily in the garden, the fruit often has bugs or worms. Prepared as a chutney, stew, or preserve, however, it is safe to eat.

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