Acerola, or Barbados Cherry, is the second highest known natural source of Vitamin ‘C’ or ascorbic acid, exceeded only by Rose Hips. An ornamental shrub growing to around 3 metres, Acerola puts on a fine show of colour through summer as the fruits mature from green through pink to red and finally a scarlet, almost black red colour ..\. Rose pink to rosey purple flowers look similar to a crepe myrtle. Because the fruits have very thin delicate skins and are easily bruised this is not a fruit that will be commonly seen on the markets. It is, however, an ideal type to grow at home where the fruit can be processed or eaten as soon as it ripens
The fruits are around the same size as the European Cherry and have distinct ribs running around the fruit vertically. Plants grown from seed tend to be tart or slightly acidic even when ripe. However new cutting grown plants are now available where the fruit becomes sweeter as it ripens. Flavour resembles the crab apple and is certainly good eating if the example I tasted last year is anything to go on. The flesh is soft and juicy and can be eaten out of hand or processed in the kitchen into purees, juices, which can then be turned into jellies and jams etc. Sliced pieces of Barbados Cherry can also be frozen very successfully or mixed with other fruits in a fruit salad. Acerola commences bearing from seedlings in around three ~r four years. Cutting grown plants will produce in around two years.
It’s important to harvest the fruit as soon as it’s ripe and care must be taken to avoid bruising the thin skins. Rather than produce all its fruit at once, Acerola has intermittent crops through summer and in fact may produce two or three distinct crops through the season.
Acerola originates in Central South America and while it’s able to withstand cold conditions
it certainly does best in semi-tropical climes. I recommend planting in a large tub so that in the Perth area at least as winter starts to draw close the plants can be moved to a protected site near buildings
or under shadecloth. This will enable the plant to get through winter with the least amount of trauma and be ready to come out into the full sun during spring for a rapid summer getaway.
Acerola is a tough and versatile plant. It certainly demands a very sunny position during most
of the year. Free drainage and a position away from frosts is important. Keep the plant moving
during the warm months with a regular feeding and watering programme. If planting in the ground a heavy mulch is desirable for insulating the root zone against rapid changes in moisture and temperature.