The scientific name of the pitanga or surinam cherry include Eugenia uniflora, Eugenia michelii, and Stenocalyx michelii. It is also known as Brazilian cherry, Cayenne cherry, Pitanga, Pumpkin cherry, Pitangueira, Cerejeira-brasileira, Ginja, and Pitanga-branca.
It is a large shrub or small tree that can grow up to 8 meters in height. Flowers develop into ribbed fruits 2 to 4 cm in diameter, starting out as green, then ranging through orange, scarlet and maroon as they ripen. It is found in many parts of the world including South America, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, parts of Central America, several countries of the Caribbean, Asian countries including , India, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and China.
The taste ranges from sweet to sour, depending on the type and level of ripeness (the darker red to black range is quite sweet, while the green to orange range is strikingly tart).
Surinam cherry nutrition value and facts
The fruit is high in vitamin C and a source of vitamin A.
A 100 gm of pitanga has about 33 calories. It contains about
27 g Carbohydrates
3.3 g Fat (1% RDI)
2.7 g Protein (2% RDI)
1500 IU Vitamin A (30% RDI)
26.3 mg Vitamin C (44% RDI)
.03 mg Thiamin (2% RDI)
.04 mg Riboflavin (2% RDI)
.3 mg Niacin (1.5% RDI)
9 mg Calcium (.9% RDI)
.2 mg Iron (1% RDI)
12 mg Magnesium (3% RDI)
11 mg Phosphorous (1% RDI)
103 mg Potassium (3% RDI)
3 mg Sodium (.12% RDI)
Traditional medicinal benefits and uses of surinam cherry
It is used in traditional medicine for centuries. The leaves are used as treatment to lower blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and uric acid levels. The bark treats diarrhea, gout, hypertension, edema, eye infections and gastrointestinal disorders.
Brazilians use the leaf as an astringent, febrifuge, and stomachic. The powerful essential oils found in the leaves make them an effective remedy for colds and as a vemifuge, which is why those in Surinam make a decoction from them.
Scientific proven health benefits of Surinam cherry
A study has shown that the use of Eugenia uniflora L. (Myrtaceae) has antihypertensive properties, helps to decrease blood pressure and has weak diuretic effect that could be related to an increase in kidney blood flow.
A study has shown that the leaves of Eugenia uniflora L. (Myrtaceae), has antidiabetic effect.
Another study has shown that the the essential oil of the Brazilian cherry tree leaves act as analgesic due to it’s antinociceptive (pain reduction) and hypothermic effect.
Study indicate that the essential oil of Surinam cherries has anti-bacterial and anti-tumor properties.
Study has shown that the essential oils of Eugenia uniflora leaves has shown antiviral and antifungal activity.
Another study has shown that the infusion of fresh leaves of Eugenia uniflora had a highly significant anti-inflammatory effect.
There are many study confirming that the leaf of the Brazilian cherry tree are effective in treating infection caused by protozoan parasites. It act as an anti-infective and an antitrichomonal agent, which is an antiprotozoal agent that acts on trichomonas parasites.
Another study has shown that the essential oil of this plant has antiseptic and antimicrobial properties that helps to fight many pathogenic bacterial infections.
Study has shown that the Pitanga (Eugenia uniflora L) fruit promote oral health and exhibit anti-inflammatory properties in human gingival and oral gum epithelial cells.
Study has shown that Eugenia uniflora L is rich in compounds with antioxidant capacity, which can help reduce the inflammatory response.
Another study has shown that the extracts of this plant has a potent antioxidant activity and therapeutic potential for antidepressant like effect.
A study indicate that the leaves of this plant can be used as potential adjuvants for protection and treatment of sepsis, which is potentially life-threatening complication of an infection.
Note: The medicinal benefits in leaves are stronger when they’ve been air-dried than sun-dried.
How to Open or Cut Surinam cherry?
Slit the fruit and remove the seed, and then leave to chill for an hour. Doing so ensures optimal taste; otherwise, that strong bitter taste (and smell) will linger.
Surinam cherries spoil quickly at room temperature. Begin refrigeration as soon as possible to preserve the life of the fruits. Ideally, store fruits in a flat, breathable container with little crowding—these are the same kinds used for other sensitive fruits like blueberries and raspberries. If no such container is available, line a wide, shallow plastic container with a paper towel and disperse the fruit on it. In the fridge, the fruits last for two weeks or so.
Surinam Cherry Recipe Ideas and Uses
Make a jam by boiling 2 cups of de-seeded cherries, 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of water
Make sauce by boiling a pint of surinam cherries, ½ cup of water and 1 ½ cups of sugar. After simmering the fruit in water for 20 minutes, strain the fruit through a coarse sieve. Re-simmer and add sugar to the concoction. The reduction will yield a tart yet sweet Surinam cherry sauce.
Simply blending and straing cherries may also be the basis for a punch. Add limes, or orange juice for additional flavorings.
Add it to your salads, custards and sundaes.
Macerate the fruits gently and cook in the oven with pepper, sugar, and star anise. Stir the caramel-like concoction and add the topping to baked goods.
Distill Surinam cherries to make wine or vinegar, as is common in Brazil.
Add Surinam cherry pulp into baked goods like muffins, sweet breads, and cupcakes.
Read about other interesting fruits