Malpighia glabra

Malpighia glabra

Barbados Cherry (Malpighia glabra L.) is a shrubby species belonging to the Malpighiaceae family.

Systematics –
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, United Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Malpighiales Order, Malpighiaceae Family and therefore to the Genus Malpighia and to the Species M. glabra.
The terms are synonymous:
– Bunchosia parvifolia S. Watson;
– Malpighia biflora Poir .;
– Malpighia dicipiens Sessé & Moc .;
– Malpighia fallax Salisb .;
– Malpighia lucida Pav. ex A. Juss .;
– Malpighia lucida Pav. ex Moric .;
– Malpighia myrtoides Moritz ex Nied .;
– Malpighia neumanniana A. Juss .;
– Mill Malpighia nitida;
– Malpighia oxycocca var. biflora (Poir.) Nied .;
– Malpighia peruviana Moric .;
– Malpighia punicifolia L .;
– Malpighia semeruco A.Juss .;
– Malpighia undulata A. Juss .;
– Malpighia uniflora Tussac;
– Malpighia virgata Pav.

Etymology –
The term Malpighia was given by Plumier in homage to the Italian anatomist Marcello Malpighi (1628-1694), one of the first to use the microscope to study animals and plants. The specific glabrous epithet derives from glabrous glăbĕr, without hair: peeled, without hair.

Geographical Distribution and Habitat –
Barbados Cherry is a plant native to Central and South America and grows wild, as well as in Central and South America, Brazil and Puerto Rico. This species is distributed in different habitats such as Texas and northern Mexico in Peru, Venezuela, the Bahamas and the West Indies.

Description –
Barbados Cherry is an evergreen shrub that can reach a height of about 5 m. The plant has a strong root system and a very branched crown.
The young branches have a green bark and are covered with a light down; the older branches, on the other hand, have a light brown porous bark.
Its leaves are leathery and dark green (reddish in the juvenile phase), with an oval and elongated shape and the margins slightly incised.
In the flowering period, at the base of the leaf axils, clusters of flowers appear with a corolla composed of five pink petals with long yellow stamens in the center.
The fruits or drupes, commonly known as West Indian cherries or Barbados cherries, varying in diameter from one to two cm, due to their outward appearance and their orange-ruby red color, are wedge-shaped like mandarin.
The pulp, which has a sour taste, is juicy and rich in vitamin C.
The fruits contain in their interior very small dark seeds.
The anthesis is between June and July.

Cultivation –
For the cultivation of the Barbados Cherry it is necessary to choose bright and sunny exposures for many hours a day. It is also a plant that tolerates low temperatures quite well.
From the pedological point of view, it prefers soils rich in organic substance, mixed with sand and well drained with a slightly acid pH.
From the point of view of irrigation, although it is generally satisfied with rainwater, it is advisable to irrigate it regularly, especially during periods of prolonged drought.
For the fertilization it is good to intervene once a year, before the vegetative restart, by giving the base of the plant of the mature manure and of the legume-based green manures.
The plant reproduces by seed and in rainy areas sowing can be carried out at any time of the year while in the drought areas the best time is the autumn season.
The plant should be pruned every year to give harmony to the foliage and to facilitate the harvest of the fruits. Pruning should be done by cutting off the dry branches and shortening the internal and too long ones.
For the harvest it is necessary to consider that the fruits of the Acerola are taken still unripe or when the concentration of vitamin C and of the other active principles is maximum, as these, at complete maturation, lose a large part of their beneficial properties. Harvesting is done manually during the coolest hours of the day.
The fruits should be stored in a cool place avoiding to lay them in more layers due to their fragility.

Uses and Traditions –
In the European continent this red fruit is known as the Amazon cherry; sometimes it is also called Barbados cherry; it is externally very similar to European cherries but, as mentioned, its interior is in segments. After the fruit of Kakadu (Terminalia ferdinandiana Exell) that of acerola is the richest in vitamin C; it also contains vitamin B6, B1 and A, flavonoids and minerals (iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium).
The Barbados Cherry is characterized by a high content of vitamin C which is 30 to 50 times higher than that of oranges.
100 g of Barbados Cherry bring about 30 calories, 0.4 g of protein, 7.5 g of fat, 1 g of fiber, 7 mg of sodium.
The acerola is juicy and soft. Without the addition of sugar, the taste is sour due to the high content of vitamin C: in fact, while oranges provide from 500 to 4,000 ppm of vitamin C, and of group B, the acerola in nature reaches from 16,000 to 172,000 of ppm.
Its pulp can be found in the form of powder and food supplements. The juice of this fruit is commonly marketed in South America, while in Europe this is only happening in recent years.
Given the high content of vitamin C (5 g of cherry contain almost 120 mg), the Barbados Cherry is inserted in supplements marketed for the prevention of cooling symptoms and for their antioxidant power.
The fruits are sold fresh or dried. Its pulp can be found on the market in the form of powder, food supplements, tablets, gelatinous capsules, powder and juices containing vitamin C, B6, B1 and A, flavonoids iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium.
Even if the Barbados Cherry is an edible fruit an abuse can however induce diarrhea, nausea and abdominal pains.

Preparation Mode –
The fruits of Malpighia glabra should be eaten fresh in the countries where it grows, because at the right point of ripeness they are very exquisite and fragrant.
Fresh juices, purees, ice creams and particularly delicious granitas are also taken from the fresh fruit. For the export trade, the fruit is generally treated by drying or freezing the pulp, obviously nothing to do with fresh fruit.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, do not in any way represent a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is assumed for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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