West Indian cherry
Common names include acerola cherry, Barbados cherry,and wild crepe myrtle. Acerola is native to South America, southern Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Brazil, and Central America, but is now also being grown as far north as Texas and in subtropical areas of Asia, such as India.
It is known for being extremely rich in vitamin C almost as much as camu camu, although M. emarginata also contains vitamins A, B1
, and B3
, as well as carotenoids and bioflavonoids, which provide important nutritive value and have antioxidant uses.
Acerola Cherry is an evergreen shrub or small tree with spreading branches on a short trunk. It is usually 2-3 m tall, but sometimes reaches 6 m in height. The leaves are simple, 2-8 cm long, 1-4 cm, and have short leaf-stalks. They are opposite, ovate to elliptic-lanceshaped, and have entire or wavy margins and blunt to rounded, and often notched at the tip. The plant is closely related to Barbados cherry, which has leaves with pointed tips. Flowers are bisexual and 1-2 cm in diameter. They have five pale to deep pink or red fringed petals, 10 stamens, and six to 10 glands on the sepal-cup. The 3-5 flowers per inflorescence are stalkless or short-stalked in leaf-axils cymes. After three years, shrub produces significant numbers of bright red drupes 1-3 cm in diameter. Drupes contains three triangular seeds. The drupes are juicy and very high in vitamin C and other nutrients. Acerola Cherry is native to Mexico to N. Colombia.
The fruit is edible and widely consumed in the species' native area, and is cultivated elsewhere for its high vitamin C content. About 1677 mg of vitamin C are in 100 g of fruit. The fruit can be used to make juices and pulps, vitamin C concentrate, and baby food, among other things.
A comparative analysis of antioxidant potency among a variety of frozen juice pulps was carried out, including the acerola fruit. Among the 11 fruit pulps tested, acerola was the highest-scoring fruit, meaning it had the most antioxidant potency, with a Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity score of 53.2 mg.