While working in the yard today, it was nice to see things starting to flush new growth and flowering. I was especially excited to see that my Surinam Cherry (Eugenia uniflora) is still alive. The one had lost all it's leaves and I thought for sure it was a goner.
The Surinam Cherry is a very interesting plant. It is also called Brazil or Brazilian cherry. The plant is native from Surinam, Guyana and French Guiana to southern Brazil and to northern, eastern and central Uruguay. It usually only reaches a height of 25 feet. In Florida, the Surinam cherry is one of the most common hedge plants throughout the central and southern parts of the state and the Florida Keys. Young plants are supposedly damaged by temperatures below 28 degrees,I have not pushed the limit myself. Well established plants are suppose to be hardy to 22 degrees. I, of course grow mine in containers. They need full sun and are relatively drought tolerant. The Surinam Cherry will do well in just about any soil type, but does not do well with salt.
Propagation is usually done by seeds. They remain viable for not much longer than a month and germinate in 3 to 4 weeks. They can usually be found online at http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/surinam_cherry.htm
But of course when I checked, they were out. Check again often. From seed you can get fruit any where from 2-6 years, depending on growing conditions. The plant is said to be bothered by scale and caterpillars, but I have not had any problem. The fruits are today mostly eaten by children. In the past, many people allowed the tree to grow naturally and harvested the fruits for culinary use.
The fruit can be used as a substitute for strawberries on shortcake and topped with whipped cream. They are an excellent addition to fruit cups and salads and can be made into pie or sauce or preserved whole in syrup. They are often made into jams or jelly. Brazilians ferment the juice into vinegar or wine, and sometimes prepare a distilled liquor.
This plant will make an excellent conversation starter and will definitely add a flair of the tropics to your patio. I encourage you to locate some seeds and give them a try!