The food industry discovers its great potential

Acerola, attractive for its high vitamin C content

Acerola is a small red fruit that has started to spark the food industry's interest, given its high content of vitamin C.

As far as vitamin C is concerned, oranges seem to be amateurs next to the superior acerola. The acerola is much less known because there are few crops of it. The acerola originated in southern Mexico, an area bathed by the sea of the Antilles. Hence, it is also known as the cherry of the Antilles. It can also be found in Central America, in the northern zone of South America and even in Texas (USA), giving rise to multiple denominations depending on the area where it is grown: West Indian cherry, Barbados cherry, red cherry, manche or semeruco, among others.

Currently the largest producer of acerola is Brazil and, therefore, the place to go to see the acerola bush, which reaches 2 or 3 meters in height. Its fruit, Malpighia emarginata, has a diameter of 1 to 4 centimeters and its weight ranges between 2 and 15 grams. Curiously, this is a fruit whose vitamin C levels fall as it matures. Therefore, green fruits have a higher content than red fruits. Once ripe, it bears a certain resemblance to cherries, with which they are often confused at first sight. However, upon closer examination, one discovers they have little to do with them.

Unfortunately, acerola is a very sensitive fruit. Even the techniques used to process it and store it can affect its vitamin C content. In fact, after being harvested, they suffer a water loss that also results in the loss of a 25,2% of their content of ascorbic acid. Therefore, producers must take conduct both processes carefully. This increases the products price and, in some way, makes commercial exploitation more difficult. Thus, it is difficult to consume acerola as fresh fruit outside the countries of cultivation. As a result, it is usually used for the production of juices and preserves or the preparation of vitamin supplements.

However, its versatility can be surprising, as confirmed by the fact that the Federal University of Ceara (Brazil) has developed a ketchup, which they have baptized as natchup, which replaces tomatoes with acerola, beet, and pumpkin. An interesting proposal so that said fruit can disembark in all the points of the globe.

In recent years, there has been a real interest in this fruit whose excellent nutritional reputation has reached Japan, which is the main consumer of acerola produced in Brazil. It is followed by the United States and Europe. This expansion shows that the industry is already aware of the conclusions of several studies on its health impact. It can help fight diseases such as hypertension, different types of cancer, arteriosclerosis, and myocardial infarctions. Surely many people would like to include acerola in their shopping list.

Its main defining feature, however, is its high content of vitamin C. It also has Vitamin A, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6, and vitamin E, as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, potassium, sodium, and zinc. In addition, it has carotenoids, bioflavonoids, tannins, and polyphenols. It might even have a future in the world of cosmetics, as acerola extracts have antioxidants and properties that protect the skin.

There is a ray of hope for the people who want to consume it fresh in Europe. In Spain it is possible to see it grow wild and it's even for sale. However, its season only lasts one month. Acerola is cultivated in the orchards of Tudela de Duero, el Bierzo, Eastern Andalusia, and Palma de Mallorca, among other points of Spain, where it is not rare to find it accidentally and in the wild.

Frutas Charito, a store in the market of Chamartin, sells Spanish acerola during the months of October and November: "The truth is that we have very little supply throughout the year, there even are some years in which you won't find them. It is a product that is consumed a lot in juices. It is usually requested to decorate dishes (to decorate tables at weddings or special events). " The people at this greengrocer advised opting for lyophilized acerola if we wanted it to be part of our juices. "It's the easiest way to find it all year round and it works perfectly in juices," they said.


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