Barbados Cherry (Malpighia emarginata)
Barbados Cherry (Malpighia emarginata), also known as Acerola, is an excellent choice for gardeners and food foresters. This tropical fruit-bearing shrub is not only a prolific producer of nutrient-rich cherries, high in Vitamin C (~134% daily value!), but also serves as an attractive and functional component in a permaculture landscape. It flourishes in USDA zones 9-11 and prefers a warm, sunny setting with well-drained, slightly acidic soil.
In a food forest setting, the Barbados Cherry can play multiple roles. As a small tree or shrub, typically reaching up to 20 feet, it can form part of the canopy layer or serve as an understory plant in larger systems. Its glossy, evergreen leaves and bushy form add to the forest's biodiversity, while its small, pinkish-white flowers not only enhance the visual appeal but also attract beneficial pollinators.
The bright red cherries are not just a delicious and nutritious treat but also can be a source of food for local wildlife, fostering a healthy ecosystem. Each fruit, packed with a sweet yet tart flavor, contains two to three small seeds.
Barbados Cherry is relatively low-maintenance. It requires regular watering, particularly in dry spells, but avoid waterlogging. Light pruning can help maintain its shape and promote more fruitful yields. Supplementing with a balanced fertilizer occasionally can support its growth. Additionally, this plant can be propagated easily, making it a sustainable choice for expanding your food forest.
In summary, the Barbados Cherry is a valuable addition to food forests, offering both environmental benefits and a source of delicious, vitamin-packed fruits. Its adaptability and low maintenance requirements make it an ideal choice for gardeners at any level of experience.