When you hear the name guavaberry, what comes to mind is the old time days when the communities were much closer than they are today. Carols and the festivities of Christmas would be heard for miles on end because everyone was excited about the Christmas season. At the time, families might not have had much in terms of finance, but, I can guarantee you the gift of love radiated in the lives of those families.
Today Guavaberry Rum is still a very important part of Christmas celebrations. Families during the holidays often have discussions about who has made the best Guavaberry. For those that still make it, their Guavaberry Rum provides a sense of pride, a continuation of heritage and of Christmas tradition.
The guavaberry was one of the fruits that bloomed around this time of year and the fruits would be harvested and used to make the famous guavaberry tarts, drinks and liqueurs. A song was even developed around the guavaberry drink as persons caroled from home to home and village to village all over the British Virgin Islands. Those were the good old days.
Myrciaria floribunda, the guavaberry or rumberry, is a fruit tree that grows widely in the British Virgin Islands and should not be confused with the guava fruit. Though the name might imply relation to the guava, guavaberry is a different tree and fruit. The Guavaberry tree is related to the clove and eucalyptus. They tend to grow wild and are considered hard to cultivate. They are sensitive to winds, rainfall and insects; some years without the right conditions a tree might not bear any berries at all. If they bear fruit they usually ripen around September-October.
Guavaberry trees or shrubs grow in a variety of shapes and sizes up to 60 feet tall. They have red-brown branches and small pink and white flowers. The fruit, which are roughly half the size of cherries, are green when unripe. When they are ripe they can be either a yellow-orange or a very dark-red to a blackish purple with tanginess of a guava containing a small amount of translucent flesh surrounding a seed. Taste of the fruit has recognizable fair sweetness.
Due to the small size of the fruit and the erratic fruiting periods, people often freeze what they can harvest or purchase when they are available. Once a sufficient quantity is gathered they are used to make jam, tarts, sauces and the like and most famously to produce the Christmas beverage Guavaberry Rum.
Handmade Guavaberry Rum is produced using family recipes. The drink is made of rum, spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, sugar, guavaberries and a few other secret ingredients! Traditionally the ingredients are placed together in a large glass demijohn and put away to blend for several weeks until Christmas of that year, or for better blending and aging, until the following year. It is considered a special part of local tradition and culture.
Finding it on the Island
Commercially produced Guavaberry Rum can usually be found in some island stores. Vendors at holiday events sometimes have homemade Guavaberry Rum for sale but most often homemade batches of this cherished drink are shared with family and friends.
The fruit from the Guavaberry Tree (Myrciaria floribunda) tree
Guavaberry can be found in tarts, jams, sauces juices, liquors and desserts (including ice cream). Guavaberry liquor, which is made from rum, is a common Christmas drink in the British Virgin Islands. As a matter of fact, most tourists reap the benefits of consuming alcoholic beverages that contain guavaberries while traveling. Equally important is the guavaberry tarts that are prepared and decorated uniquely by each individual baker or tart maker as we would call them.
Nutrition Facts: Vitamins, Minerals and Phytochemical Components
Guavaberries contain levels of vitamin C that are perhaps thirty times higher than oranges and provide B vitamins and minerals including iron (3). It also contains ash, calcium, carbohydrates, fiber, iron, niacin, phosphorus, protein, riboflavin, and thiamin.
Health Benefits: Medicinal Uses Based on Scientific Studies
Preliminary studies have recently shown that higher levels of vitamin C consumption possibly lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. In addition, the findings from various studies indicate that low blood levels of vitamin C can indicate a potential increase in the risk for both heart disease and stroke.
Finally, the consumption of the guavaberries may help prevent certain types of cancer, improve cardiovascular health, decrease the development or severity of cataracts, and can fight the common cold. Unfortunately, to date, not many scientific studies with data to validate the benefits of consuming the guavaberry are available.