When you think about vitamin C, what first comes to your mind? Vitamin supplements? Citric fruits? Both answers are correct but in Brazil, the acerola fruit is one of the main references. To get the supply people need to boost their immune system, it is common to see acerola trees in Brazilian backyards.
Acerola’s popularity is huge even though the fruit has only been in the country since the 1950s when its seeds were first planted in the Northeast Region. The farming of acerola has had strong growth over the last 20 years, being an important crop mainly for the economy of that region. Today, Brazil is the largest producer and exporter of acerola in the world. The country holds 90 varieties of this fruit, which represents 95% of what there is on the whole planet.
What is acerola?
Acerola is a small fruit with a particular acidic flavor that comes from a tree known as “aceroleira,” which can reach 2 to 4 meters in height. The fruit’s skin can take colors such as green, yellow, and many shades of red. It has three small seeds on the inside. In Brazil, people eat fresh acerolas, or in the form of juices and frozen pulps.
The plant is originally from the West Indies and is also very popular in the Caribbean islands. That is why acerola is also known as the “Barbados’ cherry.” Its first seeds arrived in Brazil by the hands of Maria Celene Ferreira Cardoso de Almeida, an agronomist and researcher from Pernambuco’s Federal University, in the Northeast Region. Its adaptability to the Brazilian tropical climate and soil conditions contributed to the fruit’s popularity.
**Acerola’s health properties**
With low caloric value, the fruit is acknowledged for its nutritional properties. Acerola is a source of carotenoids, anthocyanins, and has a very high level of vitamin C. These elements help maintain people healthy and play an important role in the human immune system.
According to nutritionists, 10 grams of acerola are enough to meet 100% of the daily recommendation of vitamin C intake. The ascorbic acid content in 100 grams of acerola pulp exceeds 1,000 milligrams, equivalent to effervescent tablets containing 1 gram of vitamin C.
Science and technology
The wide variety of acerola is a key to helping researchers with the plant’s genetic improvement. It’s a task that became necessary by the end of the 1990s, with the increase of the fruit demand by both internal and international markets.
With science and technology, researchers could improve agronomic characteristics to make the plant more productive and adapted to its environment. Those are features that help reduce the use of chemical additives and contribute to the preservation of the environment.
Also, with genetic improvement, scientists could reach the best agronomic characteristics, providing larger fruits, a larger number of fruits per tree, pleasant taste, peel resistance to damage, and better tolerance to dry periods.