From the book
Fruits of Warm Climates
by Julia F. Morton
The capulin is a true cherry and doesn't really belong with
fruits of warm regions. However, it must be included here to
distinguish it from the Jamaica cherry (q.v.), for the two share a
number of colloquial names. Prunus salicifolia HBK. (syns. P. capuli Cav.; P. serotina var. salicifolia
Koehne), of the family Rosaceae, is most often called capulin, capuli,
capoli or capolin, especially in Colombia and Mexico, but in certain
parts of the latter country it is known as cerezo, detsé,
detzé, taunday, jonote, puan, palman or xengua. In Colombia it
is sometimes called cerezo criollo. In Guatemala, it is known as
capulin, cereza, cereza común, or wild cherry; in Bolivia, it is
capuli; in Eucador, capuli or black cherry.
tree is erect, reaching 40 to 50 ft (12-15 m) in height, with a short,
stout trunk to 3 ft (0.9 m) in diameter. The deciduous, alternate,
aromatic leaves are lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate, 2 3/8 to 7 in (6-18
cm) long, dark-green and glossy above, pale beneath; thin, finely
toothed. New leaves are often rosy. Flowers, borne in slender, pendent
racemes with 1 or more leaves at the base, are about 3/4 in (2 cm) wide
with white petals and a conspicuous tuft of yellow stamens. The
aromatic fruit is round, 3/8 to 3/4 in (1-2 cm) wide, with red or
nearly black, rarely white or yellowish, smooth, thin, tender skin and
pale-green, juicy pulp of sweet or acid, agreeable, but slightly
astringent flavor. There is a single stone with a bitter kernel.
Origin and Distribution
capulin is native and common throughout the Valley of Mexico from
Sonora to Chiapas and Veracruz, and possibly also indigenous to western
Guatemala. It has been cultivated since early times in these areas and
other parts of Central America and in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and
Bolivia, and is extensively and abundantly naturalized. The fruit is an
important food, not only of the Indians, but of all the inhabitants,
and it was at times a mainstay of the invading Spaniards. Great
quantities appear in the native markets, especially of El Salvador,
Guatemala and Ecuador. In Guatemala, seedlings of the capulin are
utilized as rootstock on which commercial cultivars of the northern
cherry are grafted. The capulin is little-known in eastern South
America and elsewhere in the world. It was introduced into the cool
medium elevations of the Philippines in 1924.
tree requires a subtropical to subtemperate climate. It grows naturally
at elevations between 4,000 and 11,000 ft (1,200-3,400 m).
Mexico, the tree blooms from January to March and the fruits ripen in
July and August. In Guatemala, flowers appear from January to May and
fruits from May to September. The fruiting season in El Salvador
extends from December through April.
ripe fruits are eaten raw or stewed; also are preserved whole or made
into jam. In Mexico they are used as filling for special tamales. With
skin and seeds removed, they are mixed with milk and served with
vanilla and cinnamon as dessert. Sometimes the fruits are fermented to
make an alcoholic beverage.
|Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion*
||22.2 32.8 mg
*According to analyses made in Guatemala and Ecuador.
Seeds: The seeds contain 30-38% of a yellow, semidrying oil suitable for use in soap and paints.
Flowers: The flowers are much visited by honeybees.
The sapwood is yellow with touches of red. The heartwood is
reddish-brown, fine-grained, very hard, strong, durable. It is used for
furniture, interior paneling, cabinets, turnery and general carpentry.
Old roots are valued for carving tobacco pipes, figurines, et cetera.
A sirup made of the fruits is taken to alleviate respiratory troubles.
The leaf decoction is given as a febrifuge and to halt diarrhea and
dysentery; also applied in poultices to relieve inflammation. A leaf
infusion is prescribed in Yucatan as a sedative in colic and neuralgia
and as an antispasmodic. The pounded bark is employed in an eyewash.
leaves contain essential oil, fat, resin, tannin, amygdalin, glucose, a
brown pigment and mineral salts. The bark contains starch, brown
pigment, amygdalin, gallic acid, fat, calcium, potassium and iron. All
of these parts must be utilized cautiously because the bark, leaves or
seeds in contact with water can release HCN.
Last updated: 1/17/115 by ch