The Surinam Cherry is a shrub or small tree that bears a very sweet tasty fruit which has the appearance of a small pumpkin. These are usually red, but are best enjoyed fresh almost black. A member of the Myrtaceae family, the plant is related to guava, jaboticaba, mountain apple and other members of the genus Eugenia, which includes more than 30 edible species and is native to Surinam, Guyana and French Guiana to southern Brazil. The fruit is rich in vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, iron, riboflavin and niacin, as well as being an excellent source of vitamin A.
The Surinam cherry fruit is also rich in the antioxidants lycopene, beta-cryptoxanthin, gamma-carotene and rubixanthin. The main ingredients in Surinam are antioxidants which are high in vitamin content. These antioxidants help in preventing non-required free radical productions. These free radicals if produced, will lead to reactions that may cause inflammation and other diseases. Antioxidants are required by the body for curbing the excess oxidation that may turn unhealthy.
The benefits of Surinam cherry fruit come from its astringent and antiseptic qualities, clearing symptoms of diarrhoea and other gastro-intestinal upsets. It is also thought to be effective in clearing respiratory symptoms. The powerful essential oils found in the leaves make them an effective remedy for colds and as a vemifuge, which is why those in Surinam make a decoction from them. The fruit is delicious eaten out-of-hand or as an ingredient in jelly, sauce and pies. Refrigeration enhances the flavour and makes these a good substitute for strawberries.
When crushed, the leaves from the tree emit a pungent agreeable odour, for which reason they are sometimes thrown all over the floors of homes in the Amazon region. The fragrance they emit when trampled underfoot is doubly appreciated as being thought efficacious in driving away flies. Surinam cherry is also cultivated in many other countries, where it is used in the production of juice, frozen pulp, and tea. It has been traditionally used in some countries as a remedy in the treatment of inflammatory diseases.