Many of you would have an Acerola Cherry tree (Malpighia glabra) in your garden, and perhaps you know that the fruit contains a lot of Vitamin C, which some people are keen to ensure is included in their diet. In addition to very high levels of Vitamin C, the fruit contains other vitamins and minerals, including Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron, Carotene, Thiamine, Riboflavin and Niacin. Acerola Cherry was once grown commercially purely as away of producing Vitamin C. Acerola syrup used to be given to babies and children for this purpose. It was only when new ways of producing synthetic Vitamin C were invented, that the economics of natural production was no longer viable.
Not everyone agrees on the health benefits of taking vitamins artificially, as supplements. But if you are keen to have a natural source of Vitamin C in your diet, you may be interested that Acerola is purported to be one of the richest natural sources, rivalled perhaps only by Rose Hips. 12 to 25 of the fruits supply about 2000 mg. of Vitamin C, which is well over the average daily requirement. To get an idea how much this is, consider this. Whereas a glass of fresh orange juice contains about 100 mg of Vitamin C, a glass of Acerola cherry juice contains about 2600 mg – 26 times as much. Note that there are several varieties of Acerola, and the varieties with highest content Vitamin C have 3 seeds per ‘cherry’, whilst other varieties have more seeds.
It is surprising that Acerola is not more commonly grown or seen in gardens in South East Queensland. It seems very well suited to our subtropical climate. In other parts of the world, such as South America, it is widespread as food source, and is cultivated commercially, and one wonders why that is not the case in Australia. Here’s some of Acerola’s qualities:
- suffers few pest problems (ours only occasionally get a bit of aphid, and are little affected by fruit fly. There is sometimes a problem with bush rats)
- bears prolifically, and can produce a number or crops each year
- can tolerate long periods of drought, and has some frost tolerance
- small attractive, evergreen tree or bush
- tastes great
What more could you want in a fruit tree?
Acerola fruits can be eaten raw, stewed with a little sugar and then eaten as a dessert (spitting out the pips), or strained and used as puree. The addition of pectin makes a delicious jam or jelly. The Vitamin C is not totally destroyed by heat, for the jelly may contain 500-2000 mg/100 g. Refrigeration reduces the deterioration of the Vitamin C content. To help maintain the high vitamin level, juice and puree should only be kept about a week.
You can propagate your own Acerola tree from cuttings, using semi hardwood. They can be a little touchy to get going, taking up to 1 – 2 months. I find it is best to take a good number of cuttings, so as only a certain percentage will be successful. Keep the humidity up by covering with plastic bags.
With its bright red fruits, an Acerola tree in the garden is a great talking point for visitors. It is also a really tree for ‘grazing’, as the fruits ripen a few each day. You can easily have your day’s quota of Vitamin C by browsing on a handful of fruits whilst taking a stroll around your garden. It’s one of my favourite fruit trees.
Sheryl: Some Council’s classify it as a weed so net the bush before the birds arrive!