Chilean Guava (Ugni molinae) is a cute little shrub, with delicious berries and evergreen foliage and it has fast become one of my favourite edible plants. At first glance, it's a fairly unassuming plant, but this subtle little shrub has so much to offer.
Top of the list has to be those ruby red little berries, which come with both great flavour and brilliant timing. When all other outdoor soft fruit has come to the end of its season, this little gem is only just beginning. Chilean Guava flowers in late summer to early autumn and the berries ripen just before the winter, right at the end of November - a fabulous last burst of fresh, fruity flavour to soften the prospect of the long, dark and fruitless months of winter ahead.
And that flavour is so perfect for this time. Think of the fragrant taste of wild strawberries and add the warming spicy undertones of a hearty winter pudding. Bear in mind though that each berry is really very small and unless you plant a lot of these shrubs, you're not going to get a massive haul. But sprinkled over a granola or yoghurt breakfast bowl, or scattered raw over a fruit crumble and custard, their distinctive flavour - best experienced un-cooked - adds that perfect extra little fruity zing.
The brilliant thing is, though, that the gifts this plant has to give don't stop there, because it's also a really attractive plant, with features to enhance a planting scheme all year round. Chilean Guava is an evergreen shrub, enabling that all important permanant green presence, so valuable in the winter garden. In the spring, the new foliage emerges with an orange tint, that lasts through most of the year, replaced in summer with pale pink flowers and in autumn with those scarlett red berries. This colourihng blends beautifully with native planting schemes, including in particular the blues and whites of many of our native plants here in the UK. Lungwort, Bluebells and Snowdrops look beautiful as underplanting in the spring. In summer Cranesbill (Geranium 'Rozanne', for example) or any of the Bellflowers look beautiful, as does a pure white variety of Musk Mallow or classic white flowering Yarrow. Over winter and into spring, I like to underplant with primroses and either the native pale yellow or a cultivated blue or even bright pink all look great.
This plant grows well in any moist, well drained soil. Up here in Shropshire, in the English Midlands, it benefits from protection in winter to prevent a little frost-induced die back of the delivated young shoot tips as it comes into growth in early Spring. It prefers to grow in a sheltered spot, with lots of sun, although it can handle a little shade too. Once established, Chilean Guava needs little to no maintenance, although a light trim over the top in Spring will keep it neat. I grow this plant as part of my edible Forest Garden. It also works brilliantly integrated into ornamental beds and borders and is a great way to effortlessly transform a traditional garden into a mini edible landscape.