|Close-up of the blossom and unripe fruit|
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||134 kJ (32 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||1.1 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)|
|†Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults. |
Source: USDA FoodData Central
Common names include acerola cherry, Guarani cherry, Barbados cherry, West Indian cherry, and wild crepe myrtle. Acerola is native to Paraguay and Brazil in South America, Central America and southern Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Haiti, but is now also being grown as far north as Texas and in subtropical areas of Asia, such as India.
The fruit pulp is notable for its exceptional content of vitamin C (nutrition table).
Malpighia emarginata is originally from Yucatán, and can be found in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, South America as far south as Peru and Colombia, and the southeast region of Brazil, and in the southernmost parts of the contiguous United States (southern Florida and the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas). In Florida, it can be grown in protected locations as far north as Cape Canaveral. It is cultivated in the tropics and subtropics throughout the world, including the Canary Islands, Ghana, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, India, Java, Hawaii, and Australia.
Acerola can be propagated by seed, cutting, or other methods. It prefers dry, sandy soil and full sun, and cannot endure temperatures lower than 30 °F/-1 °C. Because of its shallow roots, it has very low tolerance to winds.
The leaves are simple ovate-lanceolate, 2–8 cm (0.79–3.15 in) long, 1–4 cm (0.39–1.57 in), and are attached to short petioles. They are opposite, ovate to elliptic-lanceolate, and have entire or undulating margins with small hairs, which can irritate skin.
Flowers are bisexual and 1–2 cm (0.39–0.79 in) in diameter. They have five pale to deep pink or red fringed petals, 10 stamens, and six to 10 glands on the calyx. The three to five flowers per inflorescence are sessile or short-peduncled axillary cymes.
After three years, trees produce significant numbers of bright red drupes 1–3 cm (0.39–1.18 in) in diameter with a mass of 3–5 g (0.11–0.18 oz). Drupes are in pairs or groups of three, and each contains three triangular seeds. The drupes are juicy and high in vitamin C (300–4600 mg/100g) and other nutrients. They are divided into three obscure lobes and are usually acidic to subacidic, giving them a sour taste, but may be sweet if grown well.
Acerola fruit is 91% water, 8% carbohydrates, and contains negligible protein and fat (table). In a 100 grams (3.5 oz) reference amount, acerola fruit provides an exceptional content of vitamin C at some 20 times of the Daily Value (DV) (table). The fruit also supplies manganese at 29% DV, while other micronutrients are uniformly low in content (table).
The fruit is edible and widely consumed in its 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, and vitamin C concentrate.
Malpighia emarginata is a host plant for the caterpillars of the white-patched skipper (Chiomara asychis), Florida duskywing (Ephyriades brunneus), and brown-banded skipper (Timochares ruptifasciatus). Larvae of the acerola weevil (Anthonomus macromalus) feed on the fruits, while adults consume young leaves. Pollination by wild insects increases the fruit yield.
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