ACEROLA (WEST INDIAN CHERRY)
The Acerola (or West Indian Cherry) is a small tree originating from South America and the West Indies. It can reach 5 metres and is primarily cultivated in Brazil. The ideal growing conditions are a tropical climate and sandy or clayey soil. The leaves are initially reddish but then turn dark green. The fruit is oval in shape, around 1-2 cm and is bright red when mature. The fruit is slightly sour, soft and juicy, with a thin skin and a large seed in the centre. The fruits are collected while still green: the concentration of vitamin C falls when mature. The seed is removed from the fruit, the juice is collected and concentrated, and the pulp is dried and ground to give an extract with an extremely high vitamin C content. Vitamin C does not degrade during the drying process and the extract contains up to 25% vitamin C. The juice is sold commonly in Brazil (as a treatment for fever and dysentery) while in Europe it has, until recently, remained largely unknown.