Oct. 1, 2014
Origin and DistributionThe guava has been cultivated and distributed by man, by birds, and sundry 4-footed animals for so long that its place of origin is uncertain, but it is believed to be an area extending from southern Mexico into or through Central America. It is common throughout all warm areas of tropical America and in the West Indies (since 1526), the Bahamas, Bermuda and southern Florida where it was reportedly introduced in 1847 and was common over more than half the State by 1886. Early Spanish and Portuguese colonizers were quick to carry it from the New World to the East Indies and Guam. It was soon adopted as a crop in Asia and in warm parts of Africa. Egyptians have grown it for a long time and it may have traveled from Egypt to Palestine. It is occasionally seen in Algeria and on the Mediterranean coast of France. In India, guava cultivation has been estimated at 125,327 acres (50,720 ha) yielding 27,319 tons annually.
Apparently it did not arrive in Hawaii until the early 1800's. Now it occurs throughout the Pacific islands. Generally, it is a home fruit tree or planted in small groves, except in India where it is a major commercial resource. A guava research and improvement program was launched by the government of Colombia in 1961. In 1968, it was estimated that there were about 10 million wild trees (around Santander, Boyacá, Antioquia, Palmira, Buga, Cali and Cartago) bearing, 88 lbs (40 kg) each per year and that only 10% of the fruit was being utilized in processing. Bogotà absorbs 40% of the production and preserved products are exported to markets in Venezuela and Panama.
Brazil's modern guava industry is based on seeds of an Australian selection grown in the botanical garden of the Sao Paulo Railway Company at Tatu. Plantations were developed by Japanese farmers at Itaquera and this has become the leading guava-producing area in Brazil. The guava is one of the leading fruits of Mexico where the annual crop from 36,447 acres (14,750 ha) of seedling trees totals 192,850 tons (175,500 MT). Only in recent years has there been a research program designed to evaluate and select superior types for vegetative propagation and large-scale cultivation.
In Florida, the first commercial guava planting was established around 1912 in Palma Sola. Others appeared at Punta Gorda and Opalocka. A 40-acre (16 ha) guava grove was planted by Miami Fruit Industries at Indian-town in 1946. There have been more than two dozen guava jelly manufacturers throughout the state. A Sarasota concern was processing 250 bushels of guavas per day and a Pinellas County processor was operating a 150-bushel capacity plant in 1946. There has always been a steady market for guava products in Florida and the demand has increased in recent years with the influx of Caribbean and Latin American people.
The guava succumbs to frost in California except in a few favorable locations. Even if summers are too cool-a mean of 60° F (15.56° C)-in the coastal southern part of the state, the tree will die back and it cannot stand the intense daytime heat of interior valleys.
In many parts of the world, the guava runs wild and forms extensive thickets-called "guayabales" in Spanish-and it overruns pastures, fields and roadsides so vigorously in Hawaii, Malaysia, New Caledonia, Fiji, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Cuba and southern Florida that it is classed as a noxious weed subject to eradication. Nevertheless, wild guavas have constituted the bulk of the commercial supply. In 1972, Hawaii processed, for domestic use and export, more than 2,500 tons (2,274 MT) of guavas, over 90% from wild trees. During the period of high demand in World War II, the wild guava crop in Cuba was said to be 10,000 tons (9,000 MT), and over 6,500 tons (6,000 MT) of guava products were exported.