Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Shake the Tree and Pour the Rum, It's Guava Season

In Nepal, we live seasonally. Mango season is over,  but now it’s guava time. We're lucky enough to have two trees at our house -- well, not "our" house exactly, the landlord's house, but it'll do -- which means I can pick guavas from the balcony without going to the trouble of putting on shoes. Alternately someone can climb the tree, which is not my option of choice, or hit the branches with the mutilated leg of a camera tripod.

As most people don't look at a tripod and think "Guava Retrieval Stick," this requires an explanation. One day my son was filming at the sprawling and forested complex of Pashupatinath Temple when two monkeys, showing a capacity for teamwork and collaboration and goal-directed thinking that would make an aid agency trainer proud, grabbed his tripod and ran off with it. My son, being a teenager and hence having forgotten to pack his brain that morning, ran after the monkeys, down the steep slope and into the tangled underbrush that was probably full of snakes, none of which fortunately bit him as he ranted and raved at the monkeys and the monkeys bared their teeth and fortunately didn't bite him and inspected the stolen tripod and did their own version of ranting and raving when it turned out not to contain any food, and then threw it back at our son in disgust. 

That's how we have only a tripod leg. But it’s good for knocking down guavas. Next time any monkeys come around, we're armed.

Monkey thinking deep monkey thoughts. Watch out for your bag. Or tripod. 

As a presumed 99 percent of the audience of this blog already knows (because you know me personally which is why you're reading it, thank you, I'll read your blogs too now!), my husband is Nepali, and although we lived in the U.S. for years, he grew up in a small village without anything fancy like electricity or running water or a toilet. Not even an outhouse. People just took a morning trip to the riverbanks to do their duty, with the Brahman and Chhetri men looping their janai, or sacred thread, over their ears as they did their business and then not un-looping it, so that you knew who had just taken a dump. Village life isn't big on privacy. 

This relates to guavas because the encircling jungle, where you went anyway to cut firewood, was also a popular place for nature's business. The result was an abundance of whatever seedy things people had eaten, particularly guavas, chili peppers and tomatoes. They all grow wild in the jungle. 

Son and friend at the fringe of our family village, where the jungle, although heavily cut, can still be seen:

Children pick the fruits wild and also become adept at stealing the fruits from neighbors’ trees. I see it here, too, on my lane in Kathmandu. The other day I passed a group of boys who paused guiltily in the act of climbing a wall and knocking down guavas from a tree not their own. It's the kind of Tom Sawyer, Norman Rockwell-ish activity that would get a kid tagged as a delinquent in the U.S. 

Guavas are pulpy and semi-tasteless before they're truly ripe, but when they're ready, they’re heavenly. And they're surprisingly potent, health-wise, much like blueberries. A study on fruits common in India, which I have been scholarly enough to link to, at least in its game-of-telephone newspaper form, concluded that the guava, "exotic in Europe but a poor man's fruit in India," is "the ultimate superfood," with the highest concentration of antioxidants in the study.

The guava is a so-called "poor man's fruit" in part, perhaps, because they're known (at least among rural people) to grow from poop, which doesn't tend to give them an elegant reputation. And they're ubiquitous. Kind of like crabgrass or McDonald's in America. I'm in the city, but we're knocking guavas off the tree daily. The landlady was just sweeping the yard and complaining about all the guavas littering the ground. The dogs use them as balls. One almost conked me on the head today. 

In fact, unripe guavas make excellent weapons in the hands of monkeys. If you throw something at a monkey, it may well throw it back, since monkey do know how to use their opposable thumbs to achieve their goals, such as whacking village kids on the head. A monkey can supposedly kill a person with a guava. 

Here's what you apparently get from a guava, aside from a possible conk on the head:
  • 209 percent of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin C.Take that, orange juice. Not just 200 percent, but a 9 percent bonus.
  • Vitamin A in the form of beta carotene. Funny, it doesn't look like a carrot.
  • Some research suggests they can help fend off diabetes. A healthy sugar? Cool.
  • It can be used against diarrhea and other intestinal problems, which is good to know when you live in Nepal.
  • More potassium than an equal serving of bananas. Although a monkey is less likely to use a banana as a weapon. 

Having a superfood at arm's reach to provide us with anti-oxidants is helpful in Kathmandu, for reasons you can see.

And yet it's not all smoke, dust and asthma here. Politicians come to the rescue. Yes, because of politicians and wannabe politicians, there are strikes (bandhs) that shut down the city with some regularity as political parties protest other parties and try to make people do what they want and only what they want. It's rather like snow days in Washington DC. Actually it's like other things in Washington too. But it does have benefits. This is the city without traffic, on a lovely clear bandh day.                                                            

Now, since this is a blog and you've already scrolled down all this way, and endured terrible newbie blogger layout to boot, it's my ethical duty to offer some recipes. Besides, every woman who blogs and mentions her kid and isn't crafty must at least give recipes once in a while. I believe in Rule of Law.

So here comes the recipe section

These are some Laziness Approved Recipes for using fresh guavas. If you're reading this in the northern realm of the blogosphere, like Cleveland or Helsinki, then you can use packaged guava juice and think of us in exotic Kathmandu, plucking guavas in the shimmering shadow of the Himalayas. Nyanyanya. Cough cough. Whoops, that shadow was actually diesel smoke.


8 ounces Guava nectar
4 ounces tequila
4 limes

Juice three of the limes, to get about 3 tablespoons juice, and slice the last lime in round slices for garnish.
Mix and shake with ice cubes (Recipe says "in cocktail shaker," but we don't exactly have one here. Luckily the human mind can figure things out.)
Strain, garnish, enjoy

Guava Lime Coolers

7 cups guava juice (not pre-sweetened)
  • 3 cups white (light) rum
  • 2/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup grenadine (pomegranate-flavored syrup)
  • Ice cubes
  • Lime slices or wedges, or fresh guava slices
  • In a large pitcher, mix guava juice, rum, lime juice, and grenadine. Pour over ice in glasses and garnish with slices of lime or guava.
West Indies Guava Barbecue Sauce

1 guava - peeled, seeded, and chopped (seeded? What, OUR guavas? What'll be left?)
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons liquid smoke flavoring (Ha! Just where would I get that here? Yet we will survive.)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
      1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon habanero hot sauce (Something tells me it doesn't absolutely HAVE to be habanero.)
1 teaspoon molasses 
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder (Whatever. I could pulverize some onion instead.)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper 

In a large saucepan over low heat, stir together the guava, tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, and brown sugar until well blended. Stir in liquid smoke (sic), fresh lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, habanero sauce, and molasses. Season with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and black pepper. Cover and cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened.

Enjoy! If you have guavas that is.


Kim Brown said...

You mention dust, angry monkeys, and corrupt politicians and I'm still left with a strong desire to visit someday. Maybe it's the Guava Lime Cooler recipe! It is obvious from your pictures and your humorous accounts that you love your life there. Thanks for sharing!

Monsoon Rose said...

Thanks Kim! One good thing about life in the "developing world" is that it's always entertaining. The US can be, too, but it's easier to tune out the entertainment by rolling up the car window and turning on the air conditioning.