Guava: Foreign but not forbidden

Guava: Foreign but not forbidden

Guava or "Farang" in Thai was imported into Thailand 300 years ago. Guava absorbs smells, stops nosebleeds, is handy for making slingshots & grows from bird droppings: Farang Khee Nok.

The varieties of guava that are popular today have come about thanks to the influence of humans.


A foreign but not forbidden fruit

Almost 300 years after Westerners introduced the guava to Thailand, the popular 'farang' continues to evolve
Adapted from Suthon Sukphisit's 19/10/2014 Brunch article

When we hear someone mention khanom farang (a muffin-like sweet), man farang (potato), maak farang (chewing gum) and trae farang (natural trumpet), we know that the word farang means the item in question was a Western import into Thai culture. But the word farang itself has two meanings. One is the name of a fruit — the guava — that was introduced by Westerners, and the other refers to Caucasian foreigners.

The guava is considered one of the old Thai fruits, imported into the kingdom during the reign of King Narai almost 300 years ago.

Every part of the plant of the fruit, the leaves, trunk, bark, and roots all had qualities that made them useful. Its roots are believed to be effective against nosebleed and the bark yields a dye. The wood of the branches and trunk is extremely tough. Larger pieces can be used to make handles for knives or other tools. Children like to take the Y-shaped joints where branches divide to make slingshots they use to hunt small animals or use as a toy.  

The leaves of the guava tree have an amazing ability to absorb odours. Archaeologists would throw branches from guava trees into the pits they dug to absorb old and musty smells. Drunk husbands used to chew some guava leaves before they arrived home to their wife and family to get rid of the smell of alcohol on their breath

The guava fruit has to be eaten when it is just beginning to ripen, with the skin starting to turn from green to yellow.  If it is eaten while still green it is bitter, astringent and very hard, but when ripe it is soft and the red pulp inside is sweet.

Chinese pickled fruit vendors have long sold pickled guavas, mangoes, glass apples and more. The fruit is pickled in a solution that includes coarse sugar and the dry twigs of a plant called cha-em that colours it bright yellow.

Birds have always been experts at stealing the fruit, and many guava trees grew from the seeds in their droppings. The fruit on these trees was small and astringent, and people referred to them as farang khee nok — "birds**t guavas".

These days there are not many people who like the old guavas and the farang khee nok, and they are generally considered a worthless fruit. New types have appeared to replace them, together with hybrids. Today there is a variety of different kinds of commercially-grown guavas: kimju, Vietnamese, klomsalee, and the seedless paen see thong. The fruits of these new varieties are very big, the pulp is soft and they either have few seeds or are entirely seedless.

Few of the people buying guava at the market today would be interested in the original Thai guava, that for generations was the only choice, but that doesn't diminish the delicious flavour and aroma that still make it special for those who know.

'Farang khee nok', a guava sewn by hungry birds.

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  • ability: a level of skill or intelligence - ความสามารถม กังวลใจ
  • absorb: to reduce the harmful effects of something - รับเอา, รับไว้
  • alcohol: drinks such as whiskey, beer, wine, etc that make people feel good and become drunk - เหล้า, สุรา
  • amazing: very surprising, especially in a way that makes you feel pleasure or admiration - น่าสนเท่ห์, น่าพิศวง, ซึ่งทำให้ประหลาดใจ
  • appear: to seem - ดูเหมือนจะ, ดูเหมือนว่า
  • archaeologist: someone who studies the buildings, graves, tools and other objects of people who lived in the past - นักโบราณคด
  • aroma (noun): a usually pleasant, noticeable smell - v
  • bark (noun): the hard out covering of a tree - เปลือกไม้, เปลือก
  • bitter (adj): having a strong unpleasant taste - ขม
  • branch (noun): a part of a tree that grows out from the main stem and on which leaves, flowers and fruit grow - กิ่งก้าน
  • breath (noun): an amount of air that enters the lungs at one time; the air that you take into your lungs and send out again - ลมหายใจ
  • commercially: for business purposes - สำหรับการค้า
  • consider: to regard as; to think of as - ถือว่า
  • culture (noun): the customs and beliefs, art, way of life and social organization of a particular country or group - วัฒนธรรม
  • diminish: to gradually become less - ลดลง, อ่อนแรง
  • droppings: the solid waste matter of birds and animals (usually small animals) - มูล
  • drunk: having had too much alcohol to drink, i.e., drunk or intoxicated - มึนเมา
  • dye: a special liquid to change the colour of something - สารย้อมสี
  • effective: producing the result that was intended - ได้ผลดี
  • entirely: completely; in every way possible - โดยทั้งหมด, โดยสิ้นเชิง
  • expert: someone who has a particular skill or who knows a lot about a particular subject - ผู้เชี่ยวชาญ
  • extremely: very; to a very high degree - อย่างมาก, อย่างยิ่ง
  • flavour: how food or drink tastes - รสชาติ
  • generally: true in most cases and situations - โดยทั่วไป, โดยปกติ, ส่วนมาก
  • generation: a group of people in society who are born and live around the same time - รุ่น (คนรุ่นต่างๆ)
  • get rid of: to remove something that is causing a problem; to throw something away - กำจัดหรือขจัดให้หมดไป
  • guava (noun): the fruit of a tropical American tree, with yellow skin and pink flesh - ฝรั่ง
  • handle: the part of an object, such as a cup, a bag, or a tool that you use to hold it, or carry it; the part of a door, drawer, window, etc. that you use to open it - ที่จับ, ที่ถือ
  • hunt (verb): to look for a person or animal in order to catch them or harm them; to chase wild animals or birds in order to catch or kill them for food, sport or to make money - ตามหา, ล่า
  • hybrid: a mixture of different things or styles - การผสมผสาน
  • import: to buy or bring in products from another country - นำเข้า
  • introduce (verb): to present a new person or thing to another person who does not know them yet - แนะนำตัว, แนะนำให้รู้จักกัน
  • item: a single article or object - รายการ, รายการสิ่งของ
  • joint: a place where two bones are joined together in the body in a way that enables them to bend and move - ข้อต่อ (กระดูก)
  • mention: the act of referring to someone or something in speech or writing - การกล่าวถึง, การเอ่ยถึง, การพูดถึง
  • muffin: a type of round flat bread roll, usually toasted and eaten hot with butter; a small cake in the shape of a cup, often containing small pieces of fruit, etc - มัฟฟิน, ขนมอบชนิดหนึ่ง
  • odour: a smell, often one that is unpleasant - กลิ่น
  • pickle (noun): a sour vegetable such as a cucumber preserved in vinegar and salt water; pickled vegetables - อาหารดอง, ผักดอง, ของดอง
  • pit: a large deep hole in the ground - หลุม
  • pulp: a soft wet substance that is made especially by crushing something - เนื้อเยื่อในที่นิ่มและมีของเหลวมา
  • quality (noun): a feature of something, especially one that makes it different from something else - คุณสมบัติ
  • refer: to mention someone or something - อ้างถึง, อ้างอิง
  • reign (noun): a period of time during when a king or queen rules a country - ช่วงเวลาครองราชย์
  • replace: to get rid of someone or something and to put a new person or thing in their place - หาคนมาแทน
  • ripe: fully grown and ready to be harvested or eaten - สุก
  • ripen: becoming fully grown and ready to be harvested or eaten สุก -
  • seed (noun): the small hard part produced by a plant, from which a new plant can grow - เมล็ด, เมล็ดพืช
  • shape: the form of the outer edges or surfaces of something - รูปร่าง, รูปทรง, โครงร่าง
  • slingshot (catapult): a device which can throw objects at a high speed - ูหนังสติ๊ก
  • solution (noun): a liquid in which something is dissolved - สารละลาย
  • tool (noun): a thing that helps you to do your job or to achieve something - เครื่องมือ
  • tough: strong and able to deal with difficult situations or pain - แข็งแรง
  • trumpet: a musical instrument that is a curved metal tube with a wide end. You play it by blowing into it as you press buttons on the top. Someone who plays the trumpet is called a trumpeter or a trumpet player - แตร
  • trunk: the main part of a tree that the branches grow out of - ลำต้น
  • twig (noun): a small very thin branch that grows out of a larger branch on a bush or tree - กิ่งไม้, ก้าน, กิ่ง
  • variety: a type of a thing, for example a plant or language, that is different from the others in the same general group - ประเภท ชนิด หรือลักษณะ
  • vendors: people who sell things, e.g., food or newspapers, usually outside on the street - พ่อค้าแม่่ค้าหาบแร่แผงลอย
  • worthless: having no good qualities or useful skills - ซึ่งไร้ค่า, ซึ่งไม่มีคุณค่า
  • yield: to produce something useful - ส่งผล  ให้ผลที่ดี
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