Acerola cherry is the amazing vitamin C tree. This relatively small tree (two to five metres high) is known throughout the Caribbean as the tree of life and is one of the richest sources of vitamin C. Between 1,000 and 4,700 mg of this important vitamin are contained in each 100 g of fruit.
The plant is extremely attractive with dark green leaves and pink or white flowers. When the acerola is in fruit the bright red berries are quite eye-catching. It can be pruned to bush size or used as a hedge plant. The acerola cherry is relatively small and compact so you can also grow it in a corner or in a shrubbery close to the house.
Acerolas will do well in a fairly wide range of climatic conditions. Propagation can be by seed but germination is poor because very few seeds are viable. You're most likely to have success growing acerolas from cuttings. The plants are frost tender when they're young but will survive light frost once the growth has become woody. They are relatively drought resistant but will produce higher yields in high rainfall areas or if the trees are irrigated during fruit development. Mulching with straw or spoilt hay is most beneficial, as is fertilising in spring and autumn with a high nitrogen fertiliser such as chicken manure.
The acerola will not tolerate wet feet for more than a few days. Flowering can start in the second year of growth with fruit maturing in as little as three to four weeks. Four or five crops may be borne in one year. There are a number of varieties of acerola. California Honey and Florida Sweet are much sweeter than other varieties.
Acerolas have no serious insect pests, but the soil should be free of nematodes. To combat these plant African marigolds around the base of the tree. The flavour of this fruit can be compared to a crab-apple, a plum-quince flavour and the taste of a ripe red cherry. One acerola fruit will provide the average daily requirement of an adult.
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