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What is Surinam Cherry?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Surinam cherry is the product of a fruiting bush native to Surinam and Brazil. The fruit is most frequently eaten by children, although recipes for surinam cherry jams and jellies are in use in some parts of the world. The bush is most commonly grown for ornamental purposes, with scant attention being paid to the fruit it produces. Surinam cherry is frequently found in the tropics or subtropical regions and is considered an acid fruit.

The bush upon which surinam cherries grow can reach up to 25 feet (7.5 meters) in height, although it is frequently trained and trimmed well below that height. The surinam cherry bush is often used in landscaping to provide privacy hedges and an area of focused dark color. The leaves begin as a dark bronze color, which changes to a dark green before the winter, when the leaves turn red and fall off. The flowers of the surinam cherry bush are delicate white to yellow blooms with a resinous odor.

The surinam cherry itself is a lobed fruit with five to eight ridges. The fruit is dark red or almost black in color and sometimes splits as it ripens. The flesh of the surinam cherry is an orange to red color, very juicy, with two to three small seeds. Surinam cherry tastes acidic with resinous overtones, because the plant produces a great deal of bitter resin. For this reason, the fruit should only be harvested when it is so ripe that it almost falls from the bush, because it will have lost much of its resin at that point.

Although the surinam cherry bush is not subject to pests, it does attract fruit flies, and this should be considered by gardeners intending to plant it. Furthermore, the fruits will make a mess if not harvested, and therefore, provisions should be made for collecting the fruit when it comes into season. The surinam cherry bush is also very slow to mature, taking up to ten years to grow in size and to produce surinam cherries. The plant prefers moist soil, enjoys full sun, and is cold tolerant to approximately 22° Fahrenheit (-5° Celsius).

Like many plants producing small fruits without much flavor, the surinam cherry bush is not widely cultivated in the West for food purposes. Although attempts have been made in several locales to popularize the fruit, it tends to lose the interest of the market after a year or so and remains the food of bored children snacking on the landscaping and enterprising tropical cooks. The surinam cherry is quite excellent chilled and dressed with whipped cream, as well as in cold drinks, ice cream, and other fruit drinks and desserts. When seeking it out in the store for culinary experimentation, look for very dark, evenly colored fruits with minimal resinous odor. To further eliminate resin from the taste of the fruit, slice it in half, remove the seeds, and chill for two to three hours before serving.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon340045 — On Jun 29, 2013

I come from Suriname and have known Surinam Cherries since childhood. I have one in my backyard. Recently, when visiting Bermuda, my colleagues called my attention to this sweet fruit. We found and tasted many of these sweet cherries. One unknown fact is that the leaves of the plant are used as a home remedy against asthma!

By burcidi — On Oct 30, 2012

Can surinam cherries be used in baking?

What are some good dessert recipes with surinam cherry?

By bear78 — On Oct 29, 2012

@sunshined-- Oh really?! That's awesome!

It sounds like surinam cherry is a lot like mulberry in the sense that it's small, needs to ripen to eat and once it's ripe it falls down and falls apart very quickly.

I have mulberry trees in my backyard and the worst part about them is that I can never reach the berries on the top and they always end up falling everywhere. Not only do they make a huge mess in the yard, but all the mulberries that fall are wasted.

I guess if I could cultivate surinam cherry, I would definitely go for the dwarf trees.

By literally45 — On Oct 28, 2012

It's unfortunate that surinam cherry has not become popular in the West. I loved this fruit when I was in Brazil. I did have a bad first experience with it because I ate it too soon before it ripened (it was terribly sour). But when fully ripe, it's a delicious sweet berry.

I used to make a tropical fruit salad with it along with passion fruit and pineapple. So delicious! I really miss this berry but I can't find it anywhere in Minnesota.

By anon202608 — On Aug 03, 2011

I live in Florida and was one of those "bored children" the author spoke of snacking on the landscaping. It seems that culinary experts eschew the "resinous" quality in the fruit but I actually find it quite appealing. The crushed leaves also have an aromatic evergreen odor I think is delightful.

I grew up eating them and now at 55 still grab the fruit whenever I get the chance. When ripe, the fruit is very soft and almost impossible to store in quantity without bruising and tearing. I suspect this is the main reason it was never successfully commercialized.

If you ever get a chance to sample them, I think you'll agree that this delicious treat is far from tasteless!

By sunshined — On Jul 11, 2011

The Surinam Cherry tree also comes in a dwarf variety, which would really be helpful if you wanted to pick the fruit at a lower height. Even with a few bushes, you should get quite a few cherries, if you wanted to use them to make jam or preserves.

No matter what kind of cherry tree you have, the flower on the cherry trees is always beautiful when in bloom. I cannot grow this type of cherry tree in my climate, but have a couple cherry trees on my property that I like to pick to make pies - as long as I can get to them before the birds do.

By myharley — On Jul 11, 2011

It sounds like a Surinam Cherry hedge would be a nice way to have some privacy and get some cherries at the same time. I am used to cherry trees, and have spent many hours on a ladder picking cherries from a tree.

If they grew more like a bush than a tree, I think it would be easier to pick the fruit without needing a ladder. Many fruits, such as cherries, aren't as sweet as we think they are, because we are used to eating them with quite a bit of sugar mixed in with them!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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