WEST INDIAN CHERRY
MALPIGHIA EMARGINATA = MALPIGHIA PUNICIFOLIA = MALPIGHIA GLABRA
The West Indian cherry or acerola is native to the West Indian islands, the northern part of the South American continent and Central America.
This small shrub with red fruits full of vitamins has been introduced to all warm regions of the globe, and even in certain subtropical regions with mild winters.
The West Indian cherry tree or siriz in West Indian Creole is a shrub or small tree that does not exceed 5 to 6 meters. Most often it has a fairly dense bushy habit, which allows it to be used to make small hedges.
It is a “wild” tree that is quite rustic and resistant but is rarely cultivated except on large areas in Brazil.
Its fruit (1 to 3 cm, 3 to 5 g) shiny red when ripe generally contains 3 seeds, some varieties are yellow or purple.
The flowers with 5 purple or pink petals are grouped in inflorescences (3 to 5 flowers), and the fruits are therefore also grouped (2 to 3 fruits).
The West Indian cherry tree is not really a medicinal plant, but its hypervitamin fruit (vitamin C) and perfectly edible make it a dietary plant,a "super fruit".
It is also a fruit that can cause an allergic reaction, fortunately it is quite rare.
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
THE WEST INDIAN CHERRY or ACEROLA
This small, fairly fragile fruit that stores poorly contains:
- VITAMIN C in surprising quantities which vary depending on the maturity of the fruit: 2500 mg/100g in “green” fruit, between 1600 and 1000mg/100g in very ripe fruit.
Some analyzes are even more optimistic (up to 4500mg/100g). It is therefore a fruit which contains between 20 and 100 times more vitamin C per weight than the orange or lemon. This natural vitamin C is much better absorbed by the body than the synthetic vitamin C generally found in vitamin supplements.
- Vitamins and provitamins (carotenoids): A, B1, B2, B3.
- Mineral salts of calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium.
- Low quantities of proteins and lipids, approximately 8g/100g of assimilable carbohydrates (i.e. 32 kcalories per 100g)
- Pectin (between 3 and 5%), much less than in orange zest.
- anti-inflammatory and free radical trapping phenolic compounds: anthocyanin dyes, flavonoids, tannins (including gallic acid and its derivatives)
The West Indian cherry or acerola is, thanks to its vitamin C content:
- a tissue protector and an anti-oxidant which strengthens natural defenses,
- an immunomodulator: protection against infectious diseases (bacterial and viral (notably respiratory viruses)) , protection against cancer,
- it increases physical and mental tone, resistance to fatigue.
- confirm the anti-cancer effect of ACEROLA JUICE,
- as well as a protective effect on liver cells,
- better tolerance of radiotherapy,
- and a normalizing effect on blood sugar and blood lipids in diabetic and non-diabetic animals.
The antioxidant and protective potential of acerola is undoubtedly due to the presence of a significant quantity of vitamin C associated with flavonoids and anthocyanins (pigments).
THE WEST INDIAN CHERRY ACEROLA and FOOD ALLERGY
A recent study (2022) showed that fresh fruit, commercial juice or acerola powder present in many vitamin supplements contain a molecule from the lipid transfer protein family which are powerful allergens.
They are also present in other foods causing allergic reactions: peanuts, nuts, certain fruits including peach or apple, and in certain pollens.
The percentage of people allergic to acerola is fortunately quite low.
However, many fruit juices (apple, guava, passion fruit, papaya, pear juice) or preparations from fruit or fruit extracts may contain a little powder or acerola extracts which increases the vitamin C content and refines the flavor.
People who know they are allergic to certain fruits should therefore be wary.
THE SUPER FRUIT WEST INDIAN CHERRY
This small tangy fruit is fragile, it does not keep long at room temperature and crushes easily, so it is difficult to transport (to market).
It is a fruit that you pick from your garden or in nature and that you can keep for 2 to 3 days in a cool place.
It is a very watery fruit whose juice is tangy and colorful. It is best to dilute it and sweeten it slightly to consume it.
Its high vitamin C content can cause digestive burns in people with fragile stomachs.
Consume in moderation: remember that 4 to 10 acerola fruits provide a sufficient quantity of vitamin C for the day.
WEST INDIAN CHERRY FOOD SUPPLEMENTIn recent years and thanks to the production of acerola in Brazil, there are many vitamin specialties based on acerola extracts.
Vitamin C supplementation is recommended:
- to prevent or alleviate seasonal viruses (flu or "cold"),
- to strengthen natural defenses and physical tone after an infectious episode, or during treatment which "tires" the body (chemotherapy),
- in all cases where fruits or raw vegetables are rare.
- avoid taking vitamin C in the second part of the day (risk of insomnia or difficulty falling asleep).
OTHER USES OF ACEROLA
- The pressing residues of West Indian cherries (40% of the fruit) contain phenolic compounds of pharmacological interest and the seeds from which a flour can be made (approximately 50 to 60% carbohydrates, 15 to 20 % proteins, 3% lipids, 25% fibers) which is neither toxic nor allergenic.
- Acerola wine: it is not really a wine because the West Indian cherry contains very little sugar and a lot of it must be added to the acerola juice to obtain a "wine" which approaches 10° alcohol.
CULTIVATION OF THE WEST INDIAN CHERRY OR ACEROLA
The West Indian cherry tree is a resistant plant, not very sensitive to the quality of the soil, it can be propagated by cuttings, grafts or seedlings.
It is a plant that can grow in all tropical-equatorial regions except regions with low rainfall.
It makes pretty bushy hedges without thorns and produces fruits appreciated by birds and humans!
It takes 2 to 3 years to obtain the first fruits, there are several harvests per year (depending on the rhythm and abundance of rain).
There are very few producing countries, the main one is Brazil but India is also interested in this little "super fruit".
The acerola harvest is done by hand by choosing ripe fruits, like strawberries or raspberries.
Transport in refrigerated vehicles must take into account the fragility of the fruit, boxes stacked at low heights, humid atmosphere.
We understand that the cultivation of acerola is mainly intended for the production of juice or powder that is easy to store and transport.
ACEROLA or West Indian cherry, a vitamin-filled “superfood”.
The West Indian cherry tree, native to the Caribbean and American region, can be grown in all warm regions of the world except those with low rainfall.
The West Indian cherry contains between 20 and 100 times more vitamin C than the orange by weight.
We mainly market acerola juice and powder because the fruit is fragile and perishable.
Copyright 2023 : Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel