Introducing the Pitanga: Tropical South American Botanical Beauty with High Phenol Content

Have you heard of the Pitanga?

No, it is not a new dance style. Nor is it a new model of car.  Pitanga is an amazing tropical fruit from South America--colourful and rather beautiful, and packed full with antioxidants known as phenols.

Pitanga is also known as Brazilian Cherry, Suriname Cherry, Cayenne Cherry and several other local common names.  It is the fruit of Eugenia uniflora, a flowering plant native to tropical South America's east coast where it is even used in gardens as a hedge or screen. It is also found in Florida, USA and Bermuda where it was introduced for ornamental purposes but colonizes easily.  Eugenia uniflora is a large shrub or small tree, with attractive leaves, flowers and fruit.  

Sometimes referred to as one of Brazil's favourite fruits, Pitanga is a bright reddish-purple fruit that stands out against the green of the Amazon.  Its shape is like a tiny pumpkin.  Its taste is sharp and sweet.

Pitanga is a vitamin-rich ribbed botanical berry which starts out as green, ripening through orange and scarlet to maroon.  The darkest fruit has the sweetest flavour and it is high in vitamin C as well as being a source of provitamin A (beta-carotene). 

Pitanga has a high antioxidant content, particularly phenols.  A comparative study of antioxidants in 10 exotic Brazilian fruits, published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, found that Suriname Cherry (aka Pitanga) ranked higher than others in phenol content.  Phenols help prevent oxidative stress and cell damage due to potent and damaging free radical scavenging activity. This means Pitanga contributes to defensive mechanisms in the body.

The high phenol content of Pitanga makes this fruit a 'superfood'.

Brazilians harvest the fruit to eat raw or to make jams, jellies or fruit juice. For centuries they have considered it useful for healthy ageing. And a potent oil is extracted from its nutrient-rich seeds for use in skin and hair products. The delicate fruit doesn't transport well, but powdered Pitanga is available outside of Brazil and is great for adding to smoothies.

Now that you know a little more about Pitanga, consider trying this Brazilian superfood in your next smoothie.

February 18, 2022 by Rose Holmes