Barbados Cherry AKA Acerola Cherry AKA West Indian Cherry
When I was growing up I remember eating the acerola vitamin C chewables. They reminded me of a sweet tart. Well, little did I know then, that one day I would be growing a tree/bush of the cherry they were made from. And what a wonderful fruit it is! The cherries are about the same size as the typical bing cherry we are used to, but slightly more acidic. It is the high quantity of vitamin C that makes it tart. They are also quite high in Vitamin A. And when fully ripe they are bright red. When it is mature, one tree can produce 30-60 lbs of fruit in a year. That’s a lot of Vitamin C!
How to use Barbados Cherry
I just love walking out to the back yard and picking them right off the bush. Most of them get popped directly into my mouth. Hey, if someone else wants some they can walk out to the bush can’t they? Barbados cherry is a delicate berry that will not ship because they bruise easily. They will burst their very thin skins and all that wonderful juice will escape. So they need to be eaten right away. Also they will start loosing their Vitamin C very quickly. Just another reason they need to be eaten or frozen soon after picking. They will only last about 3 days in the refrigerator. But the good news is they ripen a little at a time, not all at once, so a daily visit to the bush will get you your berry fix and your vitamin C all at once. And prevent fruit drop. If you want to make something from them you can put them in a bag in the freezer until you have enough to make jams, syrup, juice or wine. Or oh so many other things. Put a few into your morning smoothie or chop some and put over salmon. Yumm! I’ve also read that the bark is used to reduce fever. You’ll have to research that further as to how to use it, but I thought it was interesting.
How to grow Barbados Cherries
So now I’ve got your attention, and you want to grow your own Barbados Cherry. I don’t blame you one bit. These wonderful plants grow well in zone 8 and up. When mature they can withstand brief temperature down to 28°. But if your weather is colder than that, this bush will grow quite happily in a large container. I grew mine that way for 2 years until I decided where I wanted to plant it. It produced fruit right from the start.
Planting Your Tree
Your Barbados Cherry will do best with a ph of 5.5 to 6.5. You will also want to dig the hole at least twice as deep and twice as wide as the root ball. Then fill it with rich amended soil. Apply 3″-4″ of mulch but don’t let it touch the trunk as that can cause fungal diseases. You will want to irrigate your tree in dry weather. In Florida we feed in February, May, July & September. with a balanced fertilizer + trace minerals. You need to feed it 1/4 lb the first year and 1 lb for each year of growth there after. It is susceptible to root knot nematode. So good sterile soil in the hole and keeping it mulched will both help that.
Is This A Tree Or A Bush?
Well it depends on you. You can prune this tree into almost any shape you wish and in fact it will make a great hedge if plants are spaced 10′ – 12′ apart and kept pruned. If left to it’s own device it can get quite leggy.
When Does It Flower And Fruit?
Barbados Cherry will flower almost year round, in waves. When it gets dry it takes a break and when it gets a good rain it will flush out with it’s beautiful “crepe myrtle” type flowers. When it is finished it will stop until it has another dry spell and then wet spell and then it will flush out again. It takes about 22 days from flower to fruit maturity. This fruit is primarily pollinated by bees. So a healthy local bee population is essential for a good cherry crop. This tree will continue to bear fruit for approximately 15 years.
How to Propagate (get more cherry bushes)
The Barbados Cherry does not have a stone like the northern cherries. Each cherry has 3 tri-cornered seeds. They can be eaten but are usually spit out. These have a very low seed germination rate. The most popular method to raise new trees is from cuttings. Cut a fresh twig. Remove most of the leaves. Use root hormone and put it in a pot with potting soil. Then keep moist for 2 or 3 months. When it starts to put out new leaves you know it has taken root. Leave it a little longer to get a good start before transplanting it.
I hope you give The Barbados Cherry a try. I’m so glad I planted one. We enjoy ours so much. Both Thing One and Thing Two have asked me to start one for each of them. I’m sure you will enjoy yours too.
Happy Gardening and Have a Ducky Day!