Pitanga tree.

Pitanga, also called Surinam Cherry, Brazilian Cherry.

Eugenia uniflora

Origin:

The pitanga is a native of Southern Brazil.

Climate:

Pitanga grows well in tropical and subtropical areas. It can grow in cool climates and tolerate some frost, but may not produce well. It prefers a sunny location and requires only moderate rainfall.

Plant Description:

The tree is an ornamental evergreen and can grow to three or four metres in height. Young leaves are bronze, pink or red in colour. All the leaves are aromatic. It is deep-rooted and can stand a long dry season. It makes an excellent, fruitful hedging plant. It can also be grown in a pot.

Relatives:

Myrtaceae Family. Many relatives, including guava, grumichama, feijoa, riberry, and many more.

Soils:

Soil must be well-drained. Trees become chlorotic on alkaline soil. Plants need to be well-nourished to produce good fruits.

Propagation:

Pitanga can be propagated from seed, which usually comes true to type. Use seed from ripe fruit: seeds are viable for about a month. Cuttings can be made in summer from semi-hard wood. It is also grafted and budded, and grown from suckers.

Cultivars:

No named varieties known.

Flowering and Pollination:

The fragrant white 4-petalled flowers are about a centimetre wide and the tree sometimes blooms twice a year in warm climates. Fruit setting in isolated trees may be poor, suggesting there may be pollen incompatibility problems.

Cultivation:

Quarterly feeding with a complete fertilizer formula promotes fruiting. The plant responds quickly to irrigation, the fruit rapidly becoming larger and sweeter in flavor after a good watering.

Wind Tolerance:

Very resistant to wind.

Pruning:

Prune on a periodic basis to eliminate old, woody branches and encourage the growth of new branches. It can be kept as a low, spreading bush or a single-stemmed tree.

The Fruit:

The fruit is cherry-like, deeply ribbed with 8 longitudinal grooves. They can be up to 3 or 4cm in diameter. They are light green to begin with, then mature from bright cherry red to almost black when ripe. They are aromatic, but flavour varies greatly and may be acid to excellent. Inside, there will be 1 to 3 hard seeds.

The dark fruits tend to be sweeter, and the red ones are 'tangy' and resinous. Some people find them unpleasantly so. However, the tangy ones can be a welcome foil to other bland and sweet fruits, in a fruit salad, for instance.

Fruit Production and Harvesting:

Seedlings grow slowly at first, and although some may produce fruit within 2 years, most will take 5-9. The fruits develop and ripen quickly, only 3 weeks after the flowers open. Pick them when they are so ripe they will fall into your hand at a touch: they will be sweeter and less resinous, then. Gather daily, or twice a day.

Fruit Uses:

Pitanga is eaten fresh out-of-hand, combined with other fruits, made into jams, relish, ice cream, desserts, vinegar and wine. To reduce the resinous flavour, remove the seeds and chill for a few hours. Some people eat them after sprinkling with sugar.

Pests and Diseases:

Fruit flies, scale insects, caterpillars. They can suffer from various viruses, fungi and bacteria.

Comments:

The leaves are considered useful, as well. Tea can be made from dried leaves or fresh, young leaves, perhaps with other aromatic leaves and spices. Pitanga leaves are known to have some medicinal value.

Pitanga has naturalised in various warm parts of the world, and is regarded as an invasive weed in some of those places.