What Is Surinam Cherry (Pitanga)

by Raksha Hegde last updated -

If you have eaten a meltingly sweet Surinam cherry, the color of plum, you would know that the taste is unlike any other. It is not a traditional cherry and has the taste and the smell of the tropics. Let’s find out more about this exotic fruit.

What is Surinam Cherry (Pitanga)?

Surinam cherry or pitanga (Eugenia uniflora) is an edible tropical fruit that is native to South America. It can be found in a variety of colors, including green, yellow, red, and deep purple. In the early 1900s, it was introduced to other countries such as the Philippines, Israel, India, and Bermuda, and now it is also grown in Hawaii and Florida in the US. The fruit is also known as Brazilian cherry, cayenne cherry, and even Florida cherry. [1]

Different colored Surinam cherry on a wooden table

Surinam cherries, a taste of the tropics! Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Pitanga, (surinam-cherry), raw
Serving Size :
Water [g]90.81
Energy 33
Energy [kJ]138
Protein [g]0.8
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.4
Ash [g]0.5
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]7.49
Calcium, Ca [mg]9
Iron, Fe [mg]0.2
Magnesium, Mg [mg]12
Phosphorus, P [mg]11
Potassium, K [mg]103
Sodium, Na [mg]3
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]26.3
Thiamin [mg]0.03
Riboflavin [mg]0.04
Niacin [mg]0.3
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]75
Vitamin A, IU [IU]1500
Sources include : USDA [2]

How does Surinam Cherry (Pitanga) taste?

Surinam cherry can range from sour to sweet to tangy in taste, depending on the variety. The ripened deep purple variety is usually juicy and the tastiest, with a fruity note. The fruits have a seed inside. The fruits can be eaten straight from the tree, but chilling it in the refrigerator makes it more pleasantly sweet. It can be used in jams, jellies, desserts, and fruit salads. According to the Government of Bermuda Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the leaves and fruits have a smell, reminiscent of resin. [3]

Benefits of Surinam Cherry

Let us look at the most important benefits of Surinam cherry or pitanga.

Helps in Diabetes Management

A 2015 study published in the journal Antioxidants found that an aqueous extract of dried leaves of Surinam cherry helped preserve insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells. This is mainly because the Eugenia uniflora leaves are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds such as phenols and flavonoids. Researchers stated that the therapeutic potential of the leaf infusion for diabetes management needed to be further explored. [4] [5]

Rich in Antioxidants

Surinam cherry has a high content of antioxidants, particularly phenols. A comparative study of antioxidants in 10 exotic Brazilian fruits, published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, found that surinam cherry ranked higher than others. Phenols have potent free radical scavenging power, which helps prevent oxidative stress and damage to cells. [6] [7]

Good Source of Vitamin C

A one-cup serving of surinam cherry (pitanga) has 45.5 mg of vitamin C, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database. It also has a healthy dose of vitamin A (130 mg) and potassium (178 mg). [8]

Reduces Fever

In Brazil, E. uniflora leaves are steeped in water and used as a febrifuge. In her bookFruits of Warm Climates“, American author and botanist Julia Morton revealed that the leaf tea can also be used as a remedy for cold. In Surinam, they add lemongrass to the leaf tea and use the infusion to reduce fever. The leaf extracts are also known to stimulate the appetite. [9]

May Reduce Blood Pressure

While research needs to be conducted on humans, a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology showed that pitanga leaf extract helped decrease blood pressure in laboratory rats. [10]

Word of Caution: The seeds of the fruit have a resinous flavor and should be avoided. People with allergy sensitivities may have trouble with the resin fragrance in the leaves and fruit. It was found that when dogs were given the whole fruit by children, they suffered from diarrhea. [11]

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About the Author

Raksha Hegde is the content director at Organic Facts and helps oversee a team of brilliant, dynamic content writers. She completed her MS in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University, US. A former business news journalist and editor, Raksha followed her passion for wellness to become a certified Yoga teacher and a wellness festival curator. She believes that learning is a life-long process; she did a certificate e-course on “Introduction to Food and Health” in 2019 from Stanford University, US. 

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