Acerola (Malpighia glabra)

General info about Fruit

The Barbados cherry, a member of the Malpighiaceae, is an interesting example of a fruit that rose, like Cinderella, from relative obscurity about 40 years ago. It was at that time the subject of much taxonomic confusion, having been described and discussed previously under the binomial Malpighia glabra L., which properly belongs to a wild relative inhabiting the West Indies, tropical America and the lowlands of Mexico to southern Texas, and having smaller, pointed leaves, smaller flowers in peduncled umbels, styles nearly equal, and smaller fruits. M. Punicifolia L. (M. glabra Millsp. NOT Linn.) has been generally approved as the correct botanical name for the Barbados cherry, which is also called West Indian cherry, native cherry, garden cherry, French cherry; in Spanish, acerola, cereza, cereza colorada, cereza de la sabana, or grosella; in French, cerisier, cerise de St. Domingue; in Portuguese, cerejeira. The name in Venezuela is semeruco, or cemeruco; in the Netherlands Antilles, shimarucu; in the Philippines, malpi (an abbreviation of the generic name).

Origin and Distribution
The Barbados cherry is native to the Lesser Antilles from St. Croix to Trinidad, also Curacao and Margarita and neighboring northern South America as far south as Brazil. It has become naturalized in Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico after cultivation, and is commonly grown in dooryards in the Bahamas and Bermuda, and to some extent in Central and South America.
The plant is thought to have been first brought to Florida from Cuba by Pliny Reasoner because it appeared in the catalog of the Royal Palm Nursery for 1887-1888. It was carried abroad rather early for it is known to have borne fruit for the first time in the Philippines in 1916. In 1917, H.M. Curran brought seeds from Curacao to the United States Department of Agriculture. (S.P.I. #44458). The plant was casually grown in southern and central Florida until after World War II when it became more commonly planted. In Puerto Rico, just prior to that war, the Federal Soil Conservation Department planted Barbados cherry trees to control erosion on terraces at the Rio Piedras Experiment Station. During the war, 312 seedlings from the trees with the largest and most agreeably-flavored fruits were distributed to families to raise in their Victory Gardens. Later, several thousand trees were provided for planting in school yards to increase the vitamin intake of children, who are naturally partial to the fruits.
An explosion of interest occurred as a result of some food analyses being conducted at the School of Medicine, University of Puerto Rico, in Rio Piedras in 1945. The emblic (Emblica officinalis L.) was found to be extremely high in ascorbic acid. This inspired one of the laboratory assistants to bring in some Barbados cherries which the local people were accustomed to eating when they had colds. These fruits were found to contain far more ascorbic acid than the emblic, and, because of their attractiveness and superior eating quality, interest quickly switched from the emblic to the Barbados cherry. Much publicity ensued, featuring the fruit under the Puerto Rican name of acerola. A plantation of 400 trees was established at Rio Piedras in 1947 and, from 1951 to 1953, 238 trees were set out at the Isabela Substation. By 1954, there were 30,000 trees in commercial groves on the island. Several plantings had been made in Florida and a 2,000-acre (833-ha) plantation in Hawaii. There was a great flurry of activity. Horticulturists were busy making selections of high-ascorbic-acid clones and improving methods of vegetative propagation, and agronomists were studying the effects of cultural practices. Smaller plantings were being developed in Jamaica, Venezuela, Guatemala, Ghana, India, the Philippines and Queensland, Australia, and even in Israel. Many so-called “natural food” outlets promoted various “vitamin C” products from the fruits–powder, tablets, capsules, juice, sirup.
At length, enthusiasm subsided when it was realized that a fruit could not become a superstar because of its ascorbic acid content alone; that ascorbic acid from a natural source could not economically compete with the much cheaper synthetic product, inasmuch as research proved that the ascorbic acid of the Barbados cherry is metabolized in a manner identical to the assimilation of crystalline ascorbic acid.
The large plantation of the Hawaiian Acerola Company (a subsidiary of Nutrilite Products Company) was abandoned for this reason, and low fruit yields; and, so it is said, the low ascorbic acid content because of the high copper levels in the soil. Puerto Rican production was directed thereafter mainly to the use of the fruit in specialty baby foods.

How to choose a ripe and fresh Fruit

The fruit is bright red, 1.5-2 cm diameter, containing 2-3 hard seeds. It is juicy, often as much sour as sweet in flavor, and very high in vitamin C and other nutrients. Although resembling a cherry, it is unrelated to the true cherry (Prunus).

Ways to prepare and serve the Fruit

Barbados cherries are eaten out-of-hand, mainly by children. For dessert use, they are delicious merely stewed with whatever amount of sugar is desired to modify the acidity of the particular type available. The seeds must be separated from the pulp in the mouth and returned by spoon to the dish. Many may feel that the nuisance is compensated for by the pleasure of enjoying the flavorful pulp and juice. Other-wise, the cooked fruits must be strained to remove the seeds and the resulting sauce or puree can be utilized as a topping on cake, pudding, ice cream or sliced bananas, or used in other culinary products. Commercially prepared puree may be dried or frozen for future use. The fresh juice will prevent darkening of bananas sliced for fruit cups or salads. It can be used for gelatin desserts, punch or sherbet, and has been added as an ascorbic acid supplement to other fruit juices. The juice was dried and powdered commercially in Puerto Rico for a decade until the cost of production caused the factory to be closed down.
The fruits may be made into sirup or, with added pectin, excellent jelly, jam, and other preserves. Cooking causes the bright-red color to change to brownish-red. The pasteurization process in the canning of the juice changes the color to orange-red or yellow, and packing in tin cans brings on further color deterioration. Enamel-lined cans preserve the color better.
Wine made from Barbados cherries in Hawaii was found to retain 60% of the ascorbic acid.

Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*

Calories 59
Moisture 81.9-91.10 g
Protein 0.68-1.8 g
Ether Extract 0.19-0.09 g
Fiber 0.60-1.2 g
Fat 0.18-0.1 g
Carbohydrates 6.98-14.0 g
Ash 0.77-0.82 g
Calcium 8.2-34.6 mg
Phosphorus 16.2-37.5 mg
Iron 0.17-1.11 mg
Carotene 0.003-0.408 mg
(Vitamin A) 408-1000 I.U.
Thiamine 0.024-0.040 mg
Riboflavin 0.038-0.079 mg
Niacin 0.34-0.526 mg

Ascorbic Acid**
*According to analyses made in Hawaii, Guatemala, and elsewhere.
**According to analyses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology of fruits grown in Barbados: 4,500 mg (green), 3,300 mg (medium-ripe), 2,000 mg (very ripe). The ascorbic acid level of unripe fruits can range up to 4,676 mg and such ratings are exceeded only by the fruits (rose hips) of Rosa rugosa Thunb., which may have as much as 6,977 mg/100 g. This constituent varies as much as 25% with the clone, the locale, cultural methods and degree of exposure to sunlight during developmental stages and after harvesting. At INCAP (Instituto de Nutricion de Central America and Panama), in Guatemala assays in 1950-1955 showed distressingly low levels–an average of 17 mg/100 g, whereas fruits sent to INCAP by air and in dry ice from Florida were analyzed and contained 1,420 mg/100 g. In field experiments, treatment of young fruits on the tree with 200 ppm gibberellic acid has brought about a marked increase in the ascorbic acid content of the mature fruits.
The ascorbic acid is not totally destroyed by heat, for the jelly may contain 499-1,900 mg/100 g. Of the total ascorbic acid in Barbados cherry juice, 0.18% is in the bound form. Other constituents include dextrose, levulose, and a little sucrose

Health Benefits and Warnings of eating Fruit

Harmful Effects
Physicians in Curacao report that children often require treatment for intestinal inflammation and obstruction caused by eating quantities of the entire fruits, including seeds, from the wild Barbados cherries which abound on the island.
People who pick Barbados cherries without gloves and long sleeves may suffer skin irritation from contact with the minute stinging hairs on the leaves and petioles


In 1956, workers at the University of Florida’s Agricultural Research and Education Center in Homestead, after making preliminary evaluations and selections, chose as superior and named the ‘Florida Sweet’, a clone that was observed to have an upright habit of growth, large fruits, thick skin, apple-like, semi-sweet flavor, and high yield.
The first promising selections in Puerto Rico, on the bases of fruit size, yield and vitamin content, were identified as ‘A-l’ and ‘B-17’, but these were later found to be inferior to ‘B-15’ in ascorbic acid level and productivity. Yields of 10 clones (‘A-l’, ‘A-2’, ‘A-4’, ‘A-10’, ‘A-21’, ‘B-2’, ‘B-9’, ‘B-15’, ‘B-17’, and ‘K-7’) were compared over a 2-year period (1955-56) in Puerto Rico and ‘B-15’ far exceeded the others in both years.
A horticultural variety in St. Croix, formerly known as M. thompsonii Britton & Small, has displayed unusually large leaves and fruits and more abundant flowers than the common strain of Barbados cherry

Recipes made mainly with this Fruit

Barbados cherry can be used in many ways. It can be eaten fresh and is excellent for juice, by itself or in a mixture. It can also be made into jelly, jam, preserves, puree, pie, sherbet and wine. The fruit is also widely used in the health food industry as a natural source of vitamin C. In addition to the value of its fruit, Barbados cherry is an attractive shrub or tree which can be used for its ornamental value in landscaping. … re=related … re=related … re=related