Here’s your illustrated Guatemalan Spanish word of the day: Pitanga or Surinam cherry.
Just when I think I have documented just about every exotic tropical fruit found in Antigua Guatemala, I stumbled upon pitanga or Eugenia uniflora which is a large shrub or small tree with a conical form, growing slowly to 8 meters in height. When bruised, crushed or cut, the leaves and branches have a spicy resinous fragrance, which can cause respiratory discomfort in susceptible individuals. New leaves are bronze, copper or coppery-pinkish in color, maturing to a deep glossy green, up to 4 cm long. During winter the leaves turn red. Flowers develop into ribbed fruits 2 to 4 cm in diameter, starting out as green, then ranging through orange, scarlet and maroon as they ripen.
The edible fruit is a botanical berry. The taste ranges from sweet to sour, depending on the cultivar and level of ripeness (the darker red to black range is quite sweet, while the green to orange range is strikingly tart). Its predominant food use is as a flavoring and base for jams and jellies. The fruit is high in vitamin C and a source of vitamin A.
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