A branch of NZ cranberries ready to eat
Now is the time to harvest (and plant) that delicious but confusing berry, known here as the New Zealand cranberry, even though it is not a true cranberry, and not native to New Zealand. In Australia it has been trademarked as 'Tazziberry', and in the rest of the world it is usually known as the Chilean guava. As it is originally from Chile, and is botanically related to the guava (they are both in the Myrtle family) this is the most accurate name. However, as it doesn't look or taste at all like the green-skinned, pink-fleshed, plum-sized fruit that most of us know as a guava, it is just as misleading as the cranberry name. (As if the common names weren't confusing enough, the scientific name has also changed in recent times, from Myrtus ugni to Ugni molinae.)
Whatever you call it, this plant is a good thing to grow. The ripe berries are sweet and slightly spicy – I think they taste like spicy toffee apples. They have quite thick skins so are a bit chewy, but not annoyingly so. When the bush is covered with ripe fruit it scents the air for 2-3 metres around. I don't know what nutrients the berry contains, but dark red fruits and vegetables are usually packed with vitamins, antioxidants and other super-nutrients, and I doubt that this berry is an exception.
It is also much easier to grow than blueberries, raspberries and the like. So easy that it does not need to be planted in special berry beds and tended carefully, but can be planted almost anywhere in the garden, including among the ornamentals. Indeed, it makes a great border or low hedging plant. I have seen it grown as a 10 metre long thigh-high hedge in a Dunedin garden, where its small dark evergreen leaves looked neat and tidy all year, while in late autumn the bushes provided lots of berries to keep the gardeners happy as they worked. I grow my bushes in my shrub borders, where they thrive with half-day sun, a slightly acid soil, and some water in dry summers.
A bowl of NZ cranberries
beside a bush
Non-native NZ cranberries
growing through a native