Feijoas (Acca sellowiana) are probably the most discussed crop here at George Street Orchard. People are often surprised that they can grow this far south.
They are native to South America and range in the wild from latitude 26° – 35°. In southern Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay and northern Argentina they are common to elevations 400 – 1400 m, therefore hill country not as hot as those latitudes might suggest. Feijoas can handle mild frosts, though -9°C will kill fruit buds and -11°C can kill or cut back the plant itself. They generally prefer cool winters (they need 50 hours winter chilling to fruit) with warm and moderately wet summers. The fruit tastes better from cooler areas. Summer temperatures above 32°C can adversely affect fruit set. Sound like Dunedin? Close enough.
We know of mature trees in a few places around the city, for example a private specimen in Anderson’s Bay dating to the middle of last century, and a small grove in the Dunedin Botanic Gardens 5 m overhead. These indicate that it will be a very rare occasion a tree is killed from cold. But do they fruit?
Before you rush to the Botanic Gardens, the fruit there are poor quality and small. However, this is because the trees are probably wild sourced and seed grown.
I have grown, tasted, and will vouch for:
Very large (largest 255 g), delicious, vigorous, fruiting well after 4-5 years. I planted 5 trees about 8 years ago and for the past 4 years have harvested at least 100 kg. The last couple of years it was probably closer to 200 kg. I think the flavour improves over the 6-8 week fruiting period. Sometimes a pale yellow shade to the flesh. Main cropping early-mid May.
Small to egg size, clearer flesh and thinner skin than Tagan. Less depth of flavour but good sweetness. Slower growing than Tagan, though much quicker to fruit. Flowers and fruits more prolifically than other varieties, which may account for the smaller fruit size. It has a twiggy, bushy habit. Similar season of ripening. Possibly the only reliably self-fertile variety. Apollo is said to be partially self-fertile.
Large, long tapered fruit (frequently 150-200 g), clearer flesh like Unique. Lovely flavour, similar season of ripening.
Very large (sometimes 200 g +), round and delicious. Get a desert spoon rather than teaspoon for these! Strong tree growth. Early – mid May harvest also.
This tree is still very small so it’s a little early to report on. Has produced a few tasty smaller fruit this year – all the other varieties also had much smaller fruit on the young plants. Tagan 1 & 2 only reliably fruited once head height. Reportedly, Arhart is bred from similar stock as Tagan.
I bought the Tagans because they were advertised as having been bred for South Island conditions. However true this may be, I doubt the breeding has been going on many generations. I am therefore not too surprised that my new plantings (like Kakariki and Kaiteri) are beginning to produce well. I would expect new plantings of many other early – mid season varieties to fruit well too.
As of 2019 I advocate for planting a wide range of early to mid-season varieties (mid to late for us). Heck, try some late ones too, you’ll at least get a tree. Most varieties need a different variety nearby for pollination. Without more experimentation, side by side trials (read: hedges), and taste tests from you and I, it’s too soon to rule much out.
Microclimate caveat: I don’t recommend planting feijoas without already having, or at least simultaneously planting, protection from cold southern winds. They might survive but won’t thrive or fruit well without it (like most fruit). Grow shelter as deep, thick and tall as is possible for the site. Plant them close to north and west facing walls if you can. Our Tagans are in front of a white, slightly east of north facing wall. They don’t receive much sun past 4-5 pm in summer as the sun is setting way south of west. The Unique hedge is on the west side of the house and receives lots of summer afternoon sun 10 am till late.
In these microclimates, feijoas can produce volumes of fruit only matched by apples, pears, plums, kiwifruit and possibly persimmons too – watch this space). It’s amazing to have another delicious, solid fruit crop for 6-8 weeks fresh + preserved.
Please comment below if you have anything to add, especially looking for variety comparisons and tasting notes.
https://elliotts.co.nz/ Now stocking Tagan 1 & 2, Arhart, and a few more. Most city garden centres stock quite a few varieties, shop around to get the necessary spread. Usually $15-25 each.
These links may be useful:
Click to access 134-139%20(SHARPE).pdf
Great information Rory, thanks so much for all this. We always grew them up north, and we would get black frosts, so knew they should tolerate cold. I will try the varieties you suggest. If I could get 100 kg’s I’d be in heaven!
Go for it!
This is interesting Rory, I didn’t even know there were varieties of Fejoia! I’ve got a couple of plants in my polytunnel – only a few years old and no sign of flowers yet. We’ve just been through quite a cold winter (for us) prolonged rather than severe though. The fruit are a faint future hope for me, but I gather the flowers are also pleasant to eat?
Yes, the petals are delicious! Thick and sweet. Some varieties don’t flower for a few years so hang in there!
I grow Feijoas in Dunedin! I planted Apollo by itself maybe 10 years ago. It is self fertile, but not prolific. It tastes great. Then I planted Kaiteri about 5 years ago. Kaiteri is early, very large fruit, but not the best taste. I planted Unique last year, it hasen’t fruited yet.
Kaiteri and Unique have lots of pollen, but my Apollo has almost none. Not sure what the deal is there.
Two trees almost died in the first year. One was cut down to the ground by a gardener with a weed eater, and the other snapped off by the weight of heavy snow. Both recovered.
Great information, I have planted 3 feijoa babies northfacing but in the open! Hopefully they thrive am planting lots under and around them so hopefully not too open to the elements! As they aren’t sheltered.