By: samjack

It’s a small thing, but it’s bringing lots of joy to Houston’s Hispanic immigrants this holiday season.
Banned for years from the U.S. because it is a common carrier of the fruit fly, the Mexican guava is now being sold in Texas.
The U.S. government lifted the ban in October after an agreement to irradiate the fruit was reached. The irradiation rids the guavas of any fruit flies.
The first shipments of the fruit began arriving in TexaMexicans last month, just in time for holiday celebrations.
Fresh guavas, along with other fruits, sugar cane and cinnamon sticks, are an essential ingredient in a traditional holiday punch made by Hispanic immigrants.
In flavor, a guava can be compared to passion fruit. Ones from Mexico can be around the size of a golf ball.
During the ban, Mexican cooks had to settle for imported frozen or canned guavas — or the less soft, less sweet guava from California.
But few who were familiar with the Mexican guava were pleased.
“It’s not the same. We grew up using the traditional Mexican guava,” said Ruben Ortega, executive pastry chef at Hugo’s and Backstreet Cafe. “Normally, we haven’t been able to find them fresh.”
The fruits absorb water when they are frozen and lose some of their sweetness, Ortega said.
He plans to use the fresh guava in sorbets, jams and of course, brandy-spiked punch.
Better for harvesters
But more than a reason
for Mexican cooks to celebrate, the sale of guavas in the U.S. will be boon to Mexican farmers and their workers. There are 22,841 acres in Mexico reserved for guavas.
Roberto Lopez, whose family has been farming guavas for four generations, said the ban limited his sales to the Mexican market.
That made it difficult to pay many harvesters a decent wage to pick the aromatic fruit, forcing workers from Lopez’s home state of Aguascalientes to emigrate to the U.S., he said.
“We will go from a not-profitable business to a very profitable business. I’m very happy,” said Lopez, president of the Guava Producers and Packing Exporters of Mexico.
Improved business
It should also mean improved business for some merchants.
At the Supermercados Teloloapan market on Chimney Rock Road, the delicate fruit was sandwiched between the California guava and the crab apple, another fruit used in the Latin-style punch.
The California guava costs about $3.99 a pound, while the Mexican guava costs $4.99 a pound at Teloloapan.
Asian consumers
For now, San Antonio-based H-E-B gets its guavas from June to January from California and Florida, which produce fruits that are about the size of baseballs and green.
But the grocer is considering buying Mexican guavas to supply Hispanic customers who like the product, especially during the holidays, and Asian consumers who eat the product year round.
However, “there is a little bit of push back from customers” who don’t like the idea of irradiated fruit, said Claude Aaron, H-E-B’s development manager.
Lower prices?
Bob Petrucci, of Homestead, Fla.-based Fresh Gardens, said the irradiated fruit will taste different.
Although Mexican fruits have yet to compete with his guavas, he is worried the imports could bring down prices.
“Anytime you bring more supply into a situation, there’s going to be a downward trend on price,” said Petrucci, who has 400 guava trees and sells to high-end restaurants and grocers in Florida.

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