Book Review

Feijoas: Origins, Cultivation and Uses

by Grant Thorp and Rod Bieleski

David Bateman, Ltd., Auckland, New Zealand, 2002. (87 pp., paperback). At the time this review was written, the book was not available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. However, it can be ordered from the publisher for $25 U.S., which includes post and packaging. David Bateman, Ltd. may be contacted by e-mail at [email protected] or by surface mail addressed to the attention of Maureen Robinson, David Bateman Ltd., P.O. Box 100-242, NSMC, Auckland 1330, New Zealand.
(Price/availability info may have changed since original publication of review.)

Reviewed by Robert Chambers (9/2002)

Feijoas are considered a delicious fruit by most people who try them, but are not easily available or widely known in the United States. Fortunately feijoa plants are well-adapted to cultivation in a home garden where the winters are not too cold--say, not below 15°F--and are usually grown as small trees from which fruit can be picked without use of a ladder. In fact, in Southern California these trees are mostly known as ornamentals because they have beautiful silvery leaves and showy red flowers. Growing them for the fruit begins with selection of the right variety and then the kind of horticultural treatment that any fruit tree deserves.

The Horticulture and Food Research Institute of New Zealand, formerly the DSIR (Department of Scientific and Industrial Research), has had a team of horticulturists developing through experiment and experience the information needed to grow feijoas in commercial groves. This book reflects what they have learned and is a splendid source of information for anyone who wants to grow feijoas for the fruit, whose current botanical name is Acca sellowiana (formerly Feijoa sellowiana).

The book covers botanical information, cultivars, considerations in establishing an orchard, pruning, flowering and fruit growth, nutrition and irrigation, pest and disease control, harvest and storage, and then some information on how to use the fruit. It has a lot more information on growing these plants than we have on most semitropical fruits although not as much as we have available on the common fruits such as apples where we have hundreds of years of this kind of study.

This 87-page book is 7.5 x 10 inches with a good quality modern plastic cover. The illustrations are excellent. The level of detail is considerable and experimental data are given to support many conclusions.

A few years ago I tried, not too successfully, to grow a small field of feijoas in San Diego County, but the project was terminated by a brush fire that spread from the nearby Camp Pendleton Marine base. One of the things I learned from this book is that feijoas don't work in alkaline soil-it needs to be at least a little acid. I think my soil is acidic, but that could have been a problem. The book says also they may need a little winter chill, which mine may not have gotten.

Another point made was that, with the exception of Coolidge (and I would add a couple of others), feijoa varieties need a pollenizer. So if you wish to grow this fruit you will probably do better if you obtain an unmatched pair. The authors say that feijoas dislike wind, although that is more of a problem in New Zealand than most places where people would grow them here in the U.S.

While the experience presented in this book was developed in the southern hemisphere, the authors were careful to call attention to northern hemisphere equivalents, and I consider that the book will be quite usable for conditions in this country.

I have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone who wants to start growing the feijoa.


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