From Eat the Weeds and Other Things Too website
by Green Deane
Surinam Cherries: You'll love 'em or hate 'em
The shrub's fruit ripen over several Weeks
The Surinam cherry
is not a cherry nor is it exclusively from Surinam.
It’s also not from Florida but it’s called the Florida
Cherry because it’s naturalized throughout the state and real
sweet cherries don’t grow well there. I will freely admit these
little red pumpkins are an acquired taste because most folks are
expecting some kind of cherry taste and they don’t have that. No
matter how ripe, there is a resinous quality. To be blunt, you either
like them or you definitely do not. More so, they must be picked when
absolutely ripe or they are a very unpleasant edible experience. What
is absolutely ripe? There is orange red, the color of cars, and here is
blue red, the color of old-time fire trucks and blood. Surinam cherries
are edible when they are a deep blood-red. Let me repeat that: A deep
blood-red. An orange red one won’t harm you but you’ll wish
you didn’t eat it. And I know you will push the envelope and try
one that is not deep, blue-blood red. Don’t blame me. I warned
you. You won’t die or throw up or the like but your mouth will
disown you and the next time you will pick a very ripe one. The only
one in the picture above that near ripe is the red one on the lower
right, and perhaps the one on the lower left, and only if they drop
into your hand. When fully ripe they are very sweet and juicy.
plant is native of Surinam, Guyana, French Guiana, southern Brazil,
Uruguay and Paraguay where it grows in wild thickets on the banks of
the Pilcomayo River. It got to North America the hard way. Portuguese
voyagers carried the seed from Brazil to India then to Italy and the
rest of southern Europe and then to Florida. It is cultivated and
naturalized in Argentina, Venezuela and Colombia, along the Atlantic
coast of Central America; the West Indies, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica,
St. Thomas, St. Croix, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican
Republic, the Bahamas, Bermuda and Florida. It is grown in Hawaii,
Samoa, India, Ceylon, Africa, China, Philippines, the Mediterranean
coast of Africa, Israel and the European Riviera. If you’re in a
warm area, that is, you don’t hit 30F too often, there is
probably one near you.
Surinam Cherry is closely related to the Simpson Stopper with similar blossoms
was introduced as an ornamental and edible fruit before 1931 in
Florida. By 1961 it was widely planted in central and south Florida,
especially for hedges. A decade later was seen escaping cultivation and
invading hammocks in south-central and south Florida. In 1982 it became
a target of eradication in southern Florida. It is now reported in 20
wildlife areas as well, and threatening rare scrub habitat. Thus, by
eating the fruit and destroying the seeds you are helping the
environment. EAT THE WEEDS! In fact this very day I saw it along a bike
trail and did by civic duty and ate as many ripe ones as I could find.
the mediterranean area it fruits in May. In Florida, depending upon the
winter, the fruit begins to ripen around St. Valentine’s day and
should be available by the Ides of March and in full fruit by April
Fools Day. There are two prime varieties, the common blood-red and the
rarer dark-crimson to black, which is sweeter and less resinous. In
Florida, the Surinam cherry is one of the most common hedge plants and
over runs many back yards. In Florida and the Bahamas, there is a
spring crop and a second crop, September through November. Some times a
third and fourth crop, depending on weather.
Make sure they are deep red, otherwise the taste is very offensive
being blood-red, the fruit should drop effortlessly into your hand when
you touch it. If it doesn’t want to let go, let it be. Collecting
should be done twice a day and often the best ones are the ones you
have to fight the ants for. The “cherries” are an addition
to fruit cups, salads and ice cream. They can be made pies, preserves
such as jelly, jams, syrup, relish or pickles. Brazilians ferment the
juice into vinegar, wine, and a liquor. The fruit is extremely high in
vitamin C and A. Don’t eat the seeds. One probably wouldn’t
kill you but if you think the unripe fruit tastes bad the seed is
distaste on steroids. The fruit, I have been told but do not know, can
be made into a fine wine.
Prince Eugene of Savoy, 1663-1736
scientific name is Eugenia uniflora (yoo-JEE-nee-uh yoo-nif-FLOR-uh.)
Eugenia is named for Prince Eugene of Savoy, 1663-1736, a patron of
botany and horticulture. He was a great general and spent most of his
life fighting in wars, constantly. Apparently it agreed with him. When
he died in his sleep at age 72 he was, at the time, the richest man in
the world… if it wasn’t for a fruit would we ever hear of
him? Uniflora is from Latin unus, one or single and folium, to bloom,
read one leaved.
Eugenia axillaris, a second and darker species that grows locally
That said, there are in other warm areas several edible Eugenias and at least one more naturalized in Florida, but it isn’t that tasty. The other edible species include: Eugenia aggregata, Eugenia cabelludo, Eugenia dombeyi, Eugenia klotzschiana, Eugenia reinwardtiana, Eugenia Smithii, Eugenia stipitata, Eugenia uvalha, Eugenia victoriana and Eugenia axillaris, the other one found in Florida.
Surinam Cherry Chiffon Pie
Surinam Cherry Chiffon Pie
original recipe calls for surinam cherry juice, but this was made with
some fruit pulp. Rinse the cherries and remove stems and flowery ends.
Using quick pulses, process a few times then pick the seeds out. The
flecks of cherry throughout the pie makes for a pretty presentation
when cut and served.
1 pie crust, 9-10 inch diameter, baked and cooled
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin powder
¼ cup cold water
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup surinam cherry pulp (about 1½ cup fruit)
1 cup whipping cream, sweetened with powdered sugar and whipped to soft peaks
the gelatin in 1/4 cup water. Beat the yolks together with HALF of the
sugar and add the fruit pulp. Cook over medium heat until thick,
stirring constantly. Add the softened gelatin and stir until dissolved.
Cool and set aside.
Whip the egg whites until frothy then
gradually add the remaining amount of sugar, beating until peaks begin
to hold their shape. Fold beaten whites into cherry mixture and fill
pie shell. Chill until firm. Top with prepared whipped topping just
before serving. Serves 8-10.
Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile
Evergreen, multi-branched shrub or small tree to 30 feet, can be busy,
usually shrub size in Florida; young stems often with red hairs and
dark red new foliage. Leaves opposite, simple, short petiole, oval to
lance shaped, Flowers white, fragrant, half in across, with many
stamens; occurring solitary or in clusters. Fruit fleshy, juicy, red
berry to inch and a half wide, looks like a little red pumpkin, 1-3
Time of year: February to April, September to November in Florida.
Naturalized in urban areas, a border plant backyard escapee, vacant
lots, untended area. In native central America range it is a thicket
Method of preparation:
Ripe berries raw or cooked. One unripe berry can taint the rest. Learn
to identify the ripe ones. If you slice ripe ones open, take out the
seeds, and the fruit sit in a refrigerator for a couple of hours they
lost much of the resinous tang. In Brazil they ferment the juice into
vinegar or wine, and sometimes a distilled liquor.
shows native concoctions of the tree do help in the control of
Paracoccidioidomycosis (PCM), a yeasty disease endemic in Latin
America, where up to 10 million may be infected. The smelly leaves can
be use as an insect repellant.
Disclaimer from Green Deane
Information contained on this website is strictly and
categorically intended as a reference to be used in conjunction with
experts in your area. Foraging should never begin without the guidance
and approval of a local plant specialist. The providers of this website
accept no liability for the use or misuse of information contained in
Surinam Cherry Page