Feijoas FAQ

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.

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Feijoa ‘Tagan 2’ in 2014, four years after planting

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‘Unique’ feijoa hedge

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.

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Feijoas close to the wall with apples (on m26 rootstock) and blackcurrants in front

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?

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Yup. Tagan

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 seen, tasted, and will vouch for:

Tagan 1&2:

Very large, 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 mid- late May.

Unique:

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 Twiggy, bushy habit. Similar season of ripening. Possibly the only reliably self-fertile variety. Apollo is said to be partially self-fertile.

Kakariki:

Tagan size fruit, clearer flesh like Unique. Lovely flavour, similar season of ripening

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Unique, Tagan and Kakariki feijoas

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) are beginning to show promise. I expect new plantings of the varieties Arhart and Kaiteri to fruit well too.

As of 5/06/18 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 another kind 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 4-5pm in summer as the sun is setting way south of west. The Unique hedge is on the west side of the house and recieves lots of summer afternoon sun 10am till late.

In these microclimates, feijoas can produce volumes of fruit only matched by apples, pears and plums (maybe kiwifruit 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:

https://feijoafeijoa.wordpress.com/growing-feijoas/

https://fshs.org/proceedings-o/1993-vol-106/134-139%20(SHARPE).pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acca_sellowiana

 

4 thoughts on “Feijoas FAQ

  1. 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!

  2. 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?

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