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Cranberry or not Cranberry? That is the question.


The easy to grow pink berry bush we call a cranberry in New Zealand is not a cranberry. It's a guava, from Chile. Lots of Andean bushes grow well here. What with our mountains, and the south pole so near, we probably replicate many South American microclimates. The "Enzed Cranberry" or Chilean Guava, "Ugni molinae", is a delicious gift from our climatic neighbour, Chile, (along with surviving strains of old Spanish wine grapes). Muchas gracias, amigos!

Botanically it's a myrtle, very similar looking to its relatives rata vine, and bog myrtle. It is related to the feijoa and the strawberry guava. Both of those do well in warmer and coastal areas, but this little achiever will take a good minus six frost, so its range goes further south and inland a bit. So it's a hardy mini-guava. This tough little bush can sucker in good soil, but also takes a trim well, growing back dense small hard leaves. Its new orange-red growing tips in spring look great. They give an orange flush to trimmed mini topiary, or as a low hedge along paths in the garden. It can take the place of Buxus (Box Hedge) giving an edible hedge.

New growth in spring

The tough skinned, pink berries appear mid summer and swell to a soft ripeness that children love but luckily, the birds do not, so this is one berry that doesn't get raided by songbirds. They are dark red, similar to the colour of ripe true cranberries, but not nearly as sour. I call the flavour "strawberries and cream"; it is sweet and tart with a spicy, piney, myrtle finish.

The berries can be successfully substituted for blueberries or juniper berries when cooking meat. Barbecued venison if you live in the far outback, filet d'entrecôte if you're an urbanite. The fruity gravy made as you cook them with onions in the venison juices is exactly the sort of thing that rapidly converted me back from a vegetarian to an enthusiastic meat eater.

Trimmed to a neat ball

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