Malpighia emarginata is a tropical fruit that bares many names. It is fondly called Barbados cherry, wild crepe myrtle, Acerola or West Indian cherry. It is a small shrub-like tree rich in vitamin C, B3, b1, b2 AND A.
The plant is found in South America, Mexico, Brazil, Madagascar and Sri Lanka. It is cultivated in Australia, India, Hawaii, Taiwan, Ghana and Zanzibar. Acerola grows well in sandy or dry soil, has low tolerance to cold, prefers sunny climate. The common propagation method is through seeding or cutting.
Barbados cherry is a small tree or large bushy shrub growing 2 to 6m high. They have evergreen leaves, small fruits, and bright red glossy skin. They have sub-acidic, acidic pulp with rounded corrugated inedible seeds, short truck and branches with minute hairs.
The tree is native to South America and introduced to America in 1887. They are adaptable to medium, low rainfall areas and will die in temperatures below 30F.
The soil should be drained, limestone, clay or sandy with moderate fertilizer and compost. Propagation method is by seeding or cutting with fruiting season in December. January.
Things to Consider
Things to consider before growing the plant are disease, pest control. You need to understand how to harvest, prune introduce fertilizer and mulch. Other requirements are soil composition, sunlight, site location and propagation.
- Site location
- Soil composition
- Pest control
Pests and Diseases
The shrub is susceptible to different pests and diseases. We have aphids, scale bugs. Others are nematodes, insects like weevils and whitefly.
Uses of Acerola
Acerola is perfect as a hedge plant or for ornamental purposes. An ingredient in herbal medicine, it has huge amount of antioxidant, high in vitamin C. It is used to make vitamin C concentrate, pulps and different juices. The fruit is edible and a popular ingredient in baby food.
- A perfect hedge plant
- ornamental purposes
- used in herbal medicine
- has huge amount of antioxidant
- high in vitamin C
- used to make vitamin C concentrate
- ingredient in baby food
The flowers are pollinated by bees and it takes 3 years for the tree to bear fruit. The fruits are usually bright red drupes 2cm in diameter with a mass of 4g. The fruits are juicy, loaded with vitamin C.
The taste is sweet or sour based depends on soil composition, growing conditions and presence sub-acidic substance. The seeds are triangular and the drupes emerge in groups of three or pairs.
The fruit content include carbohydrates, calcium, lipids, proteins, iron. Others are dietary fibers, water, phosphorous and riboflavin.
How to Grow Acerola Cherry
They grow 2 to 6m but garden or hedge applications are maintained through pruning. They prefer warm climate are susceptible to cold temperatures. To grow them the soil PH level should range from 6 to 7.5.
Select a seed, dust with fungicide, clean and dry. It is difficult to germinate the tree from seeds however only fully developed seed would germinate. Although the roots are narrow you need a large container or flowering pot.
The recommended size for fruit production is 60x60cm pots. The pot should have a drainage hole at the bottom for proper water regulation. Add small stones, thin layer of gravel at bottom of the pot.
Fill container with potting soil, mineral fertilizer and compost. Place in area with warm sunlight and make sure the soil PH level is above 6.5.
Propagation through Cutting
Commercial growers prefer cutting technique which is easier and more productive. Cut a ¼ inch thick branch, 10 inch long with a few leaves. Set in prepared soil that is well drained with sandy soil.
Other soil composition ideal for Acerola are limestone, clay, marl. The lime should be kept at 7 PH level then introduce humus and compost. Water regularly during summer with annual rate about 1500mm and the tree starts fruiting 2 to 3 years.
The fruits should be picked fully ripe. Immature fruits in the first stages of ripening are sometimes processed or preserved. The tree fruits for long periods so continuous harvesting is necessary.
Shake the tree to allow ripe fruits fall or pick them early in the morning. A large farm requires intensive labor or machinery. Production yields vary based on species, weather conditions, soil and farm management. Yield varies from 15 to 60 tons/ha.