Barbados cherry is not a cherry, but rather has cherry-like properties and phenotype. Intrigued already? Then let’s learn more together!
What Is Barbados Cherry/ Acerola?
The fruit comes from the perennial acerola tree/ Barbados cherry tree– a tropical fruit-bearing shrub or small tree that has bushy and large branches growing from a short trunk.
There’s a slash because the most common name for Barbados cherry is acerola, where its scientific name is Malpighia emarginata, which belongs to the Malpighiaceae.
Other aliases include West Indian cherry, wild crepe myrtle, and acerola cherry. It is said that the acerola tree is native to Central America, North- Southern America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
The fruit is very identical or similar to cherry, where it turns a bright red color when ripe and small in size with one joint tri seed (three seeds temporarily joined into one). A fun fact is that one single fruit comprises the minimum daily recommended vitamin C requirements. That’s right, it is a highly rich source of Vitamin C.
What Does Acerola/Barbados Cherry Taste Like?
Are Barbados cherry edible? Yes! The West Indian cherry has a sweet and slightly tart flavor. If you like apples then this fruit is a plus for you! And even if you don’t still give it a try, because despite it having a similar taste to apples it has a more blast of flavor on your tastebuds.
Uses Of Acerola Fruit And Storage
The best way to consume acerola is to eat them raw after properly washing them. They are juicy and delectable and quite addictive! But you can consume them in:
- Cooked meals or pastries
- As for supplements
The form of supplements of this are:
- liquid extract (tincture- medicine made by dissolving in alcohol)
But the most popular form is the Barbados cherry powder. This gives benefits like:
- building collagen.
- fight infections and viruses.
- protects mucus membranes.
- prevents scurvy.
- boost the immune system.
- promotes radiant skin.
Acerola cherries are quite perishable. Therefore, once they are picked you should wash them and place them in a resealable zipper bag. Store them in the freezer and they should last up to three 3days. So, just thaw and use them after!
We told you about the fruit Barbados cherry or acerola, but let’s divulge a bit more about the tree; like how to plant it, the season for the best harvest, and how to prune it.
However, additional info about the tree is that its evergreen leaves are bright and thick. It grows to a height of approximately 13 feet (3.96 m) typically, but sometimes even 20 feet!
However, it takes 3 years before it starts to bear fruit. The flowers, appear during the summer, which blossoms as pink or rosy (nearly one inch) petals coming from the leaf axils in clusters of three to five.
A mature acerola cherry tree is drought tolerant but during its young stage, it needs regular watering. A fun fact is that a Barbados cherry tree can last for about 15 ½ years! Got the gist? Yes? No? Don’t worry we provide you with a picture so you can see it for yourself!
How To Plant
A famous question I know that many people will be intrigued about is– how do you plant an acerola tree? Well, here’s how!
One of the most important constructs for Barbados cherry to grow well in the soil and its pH. The Barbados cherry will grow best in soil, whose pH is 5.5 to 6.6.
Now let’s find a place for it (the sucker or cutting) in our garden, or if you want it to be potted then you can! That’s another good characteristic of the Barbados cherry tree, where it can be grown as a potted plant or shrub.
After finding a spot, with good space (meaning no other plant nearby as the branches will affect the other plants), then dig a hole at least twice as deep and wide as the root ball.
If it’s going to be in a pot, still follow the same procedure with the soil already in the pot. After completing this task, fill it with rich soil or amended soil (amended soil means that you add any material to a soil that will improve its physical properties e.g., aeration and water infiltration).
Amended soil is sold in stores or you can make it yourself. Applying 3″-4″ of mulch helps but don’t let it touch the trunk (can cause fungal diseases). If you’re planting from the seed stage, then ensure that each seed is separated by at least 14 inches in a different size- 2 inches deep. Do note though, that it has a low germination rate, hence, mostly cuttings are popularly used.
When Does It Harvest?
The acerola tree typically harvests after its third year of growing and 22 days from the flowers blossom (thus producing the fruit). It can be classified as a zone 8 plant that can survive a temperature of 25 oF, where it doesn’t bear fruit until spring again.
The best harvest season is from May to November (spring, summer, and fall but its highest peak is sometimes in summer), but don’t be too surprised if you find a few during winter.
How To Prune An Acerola Cherry Tree
The tree/shrub has bushy leaves and branches that sprout outwards and is not careful will grow out of proportion! So, the best thing to do is prune it.
You can use a hedge cutter or trimmer to do the job. But before cutting it’s good to decide whether you want it to grow as a tree or as a bush as well as the shape. By doing this you are intentionally training the plant in the form you want it to grow and maintain.
If your Barbados cherry tree is mature, you don’t have to be afraid of pruning it heavily. This is because pruning helps with new growth!
Think of it like trimming your hair to get rid of split ends. So, if you desire a tree form cut the branches that are low and at the top that grows horizontally.
This allows the plant to now have one canopy. If you rather a bushy form (like a dwarf Barbados cherry shrub that grows up to 4 inches) then trim the vertical branches only and shape the horizontal ones.
A keynote is that pruning is best done for this plant in early fall. This is because it helps it to survive through the winter. A recommendation is to avoid pruning in spring and early summer because this is when the tree/shrub will blossom to harvest soon, thus giving you a low fruit yield.
12 Health Benefits Of Acerola/Barbados Cherry
Acerola cherry has a package of different nutritional values. Where it helps to:
- Boost the immune system.
- Treat scurvy due to high source of Vitamin C (about 10x more in acerola than in other citrus fruits e.g. orange).
- Delay aging.
- Prevents heart diseases.
- Aids indigestion.
- Prevents cancer (by reducing free radicals that activates cancer cells)
- May assist in weight loss
- Assist in controlling diabetes.
- May assist in regulating high blood pressure.
- Improves vision.
- Reduce inflammation.
- Helps to regulate pH balance levels.
Acerola is very healthy for you as you can see. But the aforementioned are only a few benefits! Amazing right? These benefits get the job done due to the nutrients and other compounds and minerals in the fruit. READ MORE. These include:
- niacin (vitamin B-3)
- riboflavin (vitamin B-2)
- thiamine (vitamin B-1)
- Vitamin A (RAE and IU)
- Vitamin B6
Other Exotic Fruits
And more, but in smaller dosages!
I hope we brought back some good childhood memories with this fruit! I sure have reminisced while writing this article. I do implore you to try this fruit and you won’t regret it! However, be careful of how much you consume! If you have any ailments please consult your doctor before consuming. With that said Bon Appétit!
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