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Guava, Immortal Nectar

Hi there! My name is Amrita Gulati. I’m starting my journey at the Baltimore Orchard Project, and am excited to grow, flourish and learn all that I can with the Civic Works team, as an AmeriCorps member serving as an Orchard Organizer. My past experience includes working to build gardens, assisting on farms, working at farmers markets, donating towards food recovery, as well as learning and teaching others about cooking. I bring my underlying passion for environmental & food justice, as well as a focus on intersectionality, to everything I do. My given name, Amrita अमृत  and my pet name Amrood अमरूद , in Hindi respectively mean “immortal nectar” and “guava”. As long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed tasting and trying every variety of fruit, especially tropical fruits that remind me of my family’s home. As a new member of BOP I decided to do a little bit more research into the fruit tree that is my namesake.

Psidium guajava are thought to have originated in central America, and pre Spanish colonization, they had spread to stretches of the Caribbean and tropical areas of the US. Guavas were cultivated by indigenous peoples in the Americas, including the Seminole nation in present day north Florida. Due in large part to European colonization and global trade, the demand for guavas have grown. Guava trees are tend to be smaller, are able to typically grow in many different soil types and thrive in tropical warm climates. Guavas are now cultivated throughout tropical regions the world over, and are especially popular in Asia. Most of the worlds’ guavas are now commercially grown in India, Brazil, and Mexico. There are many different varieties of guava cultivars, which vary by region – they differ by seed count, size, flavor and hardiness. As the types of guavas differ – so do their uses! Guavas can be found in South African Koejawel poeding, Filipino Sinigang na Bayabas, Brazilian Goiabada cascão, Jamaican pepper sauce & Guava Pies, and in many many other diverse cuisine.

Image copyright MapsOfIndia.com

Guavas are a special fruit to my family. My parents grew up in central India, with guava trees growing in their aangans (courtyards), and as children, they and their siblings would pick them when ripe. There are so many delicious desi recipes that incorporate guavas. One favorite is Amrood ki Sabzi aka Guava Curry, a savory Rajasthani dish where just-picked guavas are cooked with spices including cumin, coriander, turmeric, fennel, ginger, and yogurt. Another common way to prepare the fruit is to make guava chutney and aachar (pickle), eaten with chaat or paranthas. My mother taught me to eat the fruit in a very simple way – slice up a ripe guava, sprinkle liberally with salt & chili powder, and enjoy. During a recent BOP lunch meeting, I shared some spicy guava slices with the team!

Food is so central to our daily lives. I believe that food intimately connects us to so many aspects of our humanity: with our culture, our heritage, our histories, our values, and our future. I am looking forward to deepening my knowledge of food systems, my appreciation of fruits, nuts, vegetation and mushrooms, and my connection with my birthplace Baltimore City, through this opportunity. Happy to join BOP, and thankful for the privilege to serve!

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