Malpighiaceae (Acerola family)

Juice made from the Barbados cherry is used in traditional medicine to treat flu and cold symptoms and also to cure respiratory diseases.

Description. Large, densely branched, evergreen shrub or small tree, 4-6 m (13-20 ft) tall. Opposite, simple, dark green leaves, lanceolate-ovate, 3-6 cm (1.2-2.4 in) long with short petioles. Perfect flowers with pink- or lavender-fringed petals in small cymes. Faintly 3-lobed fruits 1-3 cm (0.4-1.2 in) in diameter, round to oblate, red to deep crimson drupes with glossy skin. Orange pulp juicy, acid to subacid, with 3 hard stones.

Benefits Of: BARBADOS CHERRY, ACEROLA Photo Gallery

Origin and Distribution. Native to tropical regions of the Caribbean and Central and South America. The acerola is cultivated in many tropical and warm subtropical countries. The plant is resistant to drought and can withstand light frosts. Also planted as a potted ornamental or as a hedge. The plant is popular as a bonsai because of its colorful fruits and beautiful foliage.

Food uses. Fruits can be eaten fresh, but they are quite sour. Normally they are boiled or stewed, sweetened, strained, and eaten as dessert. The fruit provides a tasty juice enjoyed by itself or mixed with other fruit juices like pineapple or coconut water. The fruits can also be made into a delicious sauce used as a topping on ice cream, cakes, and other fruits; they are also used as pie filling. Acerolas are utilized to make jellies and jams. A wine is made from ripe fruits. The fruit is widely used in the health industry as a natural source of vitamin C.

Comments. The acerola is famous for an exceptionally high content of vitamin C. Unripe fruits can contain as much as 4,500 mg (0.16 oz) vitamin C per 100 g (0.22 lbs) fruit, and 1,000-2,000 mg (0.04-0.07 oz) per 100 g (0.22 lbs) ripe, edible portions of the fruit. That is about 32 times the amount of vitamin C in an orange. The juice also shows very high antioxidant activity and is used in traditional medicine to treat flu and cold symptoms and also to cure respiratory diseases.

Description. Medium-sized evergreen tree with dense foliage and compact growth habit, 8-20 m (26-66 ft) tall. Opposite leaves leathery, glossy, broadly ellipitic, up to 20 cm (8 in) long and 10 cm (4 in) wide. Fragrant flowers with 4-6 white petals and orange stamens, borne singly or in small clusters on short stalks. Male, female, and hermaphrodite flowers may occur on the same or separate trees. Fruit is a globular berry with brown skin, 10-20 cm (4-8 in) in diameter. The nonfibrous, fragrant pulp is yellow or orange, crisp, juicy or dry, depending on variety, and contains 1-4 brown seeds.

Origin and Distribution. The tree is native to northern South America and the Antilles. It is not well known in Africa or in tropical Asia. The tree needs a tropical or near-tropical climate and grows in its natural habitat usually below 1,000 m (3,300 ft) altitude.

Food uses. In Jamaica, the fruit is served with wine, sugar, and cream. The pulp is used to make marmalade, jams, and preserves and for pie and tart fillings. The pulp is known to keep its unique flavor over a long period of time. In the Dominican Republic, the flesh is blended with sugar and served as a frozen sherbet. In El Salvador, the pulp is used to flavor a carbonated soft drink marketed under the name Kolashanpan. In the French West Indies, the flowers are used to distill a liqueur called creme de creole that is consumed as a digestive or tonic.

Comments. Various parts of the tree, especially the seeds, have insecticidal properties. The pulverized seeds have been used in traditional Central and South American medicine to treat parasitic skin diseases and also to get rid of lice and chiggers on humans and domestic animals.

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