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Barbados cherry nutrition facts

Delicately sweet and sour, barbados cherry is a small-sized berry native to the Caribbean islands.

Botanically, Barbados cherry belongs to Malpighiaceae family of shrubs that grow naturally in the wild in several parts of Central American, and Amazonian forests. Some of the common names are West-Indian cherry, Amazon cherry, etc.

Scientific name: Malpighia emarginata.

barbados cherries
Barbados cherries. Courtesy: Leonardo

Barbados cherry is an evergreen large size bushy shrub that reaches about 8-18 feet in height. Its downy woody branches bear beautiful pink, lavender color flowers. Blooming occurs all along its leaf axils year-round.

Small-sized berries about the size of table grapes appear single or in clusters all along the entire length of its woody branches.

The fruit features bright-red color, round or oblate shape, with tri-lobes which are more obvious at its bottom. Each berry measures about 1.5 to 4 cm in diameter and weighs about 5-7 g. Inside, the pulp is juicy with a sweet and tart flavor and consists of three tiny winged edible seeds. Ripe berries are sweeter and juicier than immature, green-skinned ones that can be consumed out of hand.

Health benefits of Barbados cherry

  1. Barbados cherry is very low in calories. 100 g fresh berries provide just 32 calories. Nonetheless, they compose many health benefiting components such as vitamins, and pigment anti-oxidants that contribute immensely towards optimum health and wellness.

  2. The berries possess high levels of antioxidants in comparison to some of other Amazonian fruits such as acai, abiu, wax jambu, etc. Poly-phenolic anthocyanidin compounds namely chlorogenic acid, ferulic acid, pelargonidin, malvidin, tannins, cyanidin-3-glycoside, quercetin, and kaempferol largely contribute to their antioxidant value.

  3. Barbados cherry possesses the highest content of vitamin C for any plant-derived fruits/berries, probably next only to another tiny-sized Amazonian berry, Camu Camu (2000 mg/100 g). 100 g fresh berries provide astoundingly 1677.6 mg of vitamin-C; that is about 1864% of daily-recommended intake. Eating as many as 2-3 would be sufficient enough to fulfill its daily requirements. Vitamin-C is an incredible natural antioxidant. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the human body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the blood.

  4. The combination of vitamin-C and phytochemical compounds in the barbados cherry would help rid off harmful oxygen-derived free radicals from the body, and thereby, help boost immunity, protect the body from cancers, aging, degenerative diseases, inflammation, and infections.

  5. Additionally, research studies suggest that chlorogenic acid in these berries may help lower blood sugar levels and control blood glucose levels in type-II diabetes mellitus condition.

  6. These berries also contain a small amount of B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, folates, and pantothenic acid. It contains great amounts of vitamin B-6, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and folic acid. These vitamins act as co-factors to help the human body metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and fats.

  7. Furthermore, they also contain a modest amount of minerals and electrolytes such as potassium, manganese, copper, iron, and zinc.

See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

Barbados cherry (West Indian cherry) (Malpighia emarginata). Nutrition Value per 100 g. (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient Value Percent of RDA
Energy 32 Kcal 1.5%
Carbohydrates 7.69 g 6%
Protein 0.40 g <1%
Total Fat 0.30 g 1.5%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 1.1 g 2.5%
Folates 14 µg 3.5%
Niacin 0.400 mg 2.5%
Pantothenic acid 0.309 mg 6%
Pyridoxine 0.009 mg <1%
Riboflavin 0.060 mg 4.5%
Vitamin-A 767 IU 26%
Vitamin-C 1677.6 mg 1864%
Sodium 7 mg 0.5%
Potassium 146 mg 3%
Calcium 12 mg 1.2%
Copper 0.086 mg 9%
Iron 0.20 mg 2.5%
Magnesium 18 mg 4.5%
Phosphorous 11 mg 1.5%
Selenium 0.6 µg 1%
Zinc 0.10 mg 1%

Selection and storage

Barbados cherry grew primarily in home gardens as a decorative shrub and in some orchards in Florida and Hawaii in the US. Only a handful of farmer markets displays them for sale. Barbados cherry extracts in the form of powder, concentrate, juices, etc., however, can be readily available in groceries.

At their native wild, for example in Brazil's Amazon, they can be readily available in the local markets. Choose bright red, ripe, firm, uniformly sized berries. Avoid discolored, soft, bruising, and damaged ones.

Once at home, store fresh berries in a plastic or zip pouch and place them inside the refrigerator set at zero degrees and high relative humidity where they keep well for a couple of days.

Preparation and serving tips

Fresh berries can be eaten out of hand from the trees just as you would do in the case of other bush berries. However, their extremely tart flavor and proportionately large-sized seeds would limit their use as a favorite table fruit.

Once at home, wash berries in cold water without disturbing their stem. Drain and gently mop dry using a soft cloth/paper towel.

Here are some serving tips:

  • Traditionally, barbados berries have been part of the food culture of native Amazonian since centuries.

  • Sliced fresh berries can be added to fruit salad, fruit cup, etc.

  • They can be used to prepare sauce, juice, syrup, jelly, etc.

Safety profile

Barbados berries rarely lead to allergic reactions. However, people with known history of sensitivity to them, have to totally avoid them as food. (Medical disclaimer).

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    Further Reading:

  1. Phenolic compounds in Malpighia- Instituto de Química-Brazil (Link opens new window).

  2. USDA National Nutrient Database.(Link opens in new window)

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