Here’s a tropical fruit tree that produces unique fruits that are a good substitute for northern cherries. Grumichama (Eugenia brasiliensis) rates high among rare fruit collectors in tropical and subtropical zones. Also known as Brazilian cherry, this fruit tree of the Myrtaceae family is so rare in Costa Rica that it is virtually unnamed in Spanish. Originally from the southern coastal region of Brazil, it is now grown in many regions of the tropics and is a popular home garden fruit tree in Florida and Hawaii.
Grumichama makes a nice ornamental tree for the home garden. Its attractive leaves are glossy green, thick and leathery, and new shoots are an attractive rose color. The tree grows to about 10 meters high or can be pruned for easy fruit harvest. The white flowers are borne on long stems at the apex of the branches, and produce small, two-centimeter-wide fruits that turn bright red and finally dark purple as they ripen. The apex of the fruit is crowned with four sepals, similar to the strawberry guava. The red or white pulp is juicy and tastes much like a true sweet cherry. There is usually one seed per fruit.
Brazilian cherry can be grown from sea level to intermediate regions of the country, up to 1,000 meters, and can grow in a wide range of tropical soils, including acidic clay soils. It does not tolerate salt breezes near the beach and requires weekly irrigation in areas with a strong dry season.
Propagation is usually by seed, but tests have shown it can be grown from cuttings and air layering. In Brazil, preferred varieties are grafted onto common rootstock.
Seedling trees are slow-growing in the first few years but can be stimulated into vigorous growth with soluble fertilizers high in nitrogen.
With a good yearly program of fertilization, these trees can begin to fruit in four to five years. Mature trees can produce fruit for many months of the year, usually from July to December. They have a remarkably short period of 30 days from flowering to fruiting, and you have to harvest frequently, while the fruits are still slightly unripe, if you want to beat the birds.
You can enjoy nibbling on grumichama right from the tree, but when there’s a bumper crop you can also make jellies, pies or wine. Nutritionally, these fruits are high in calcium and vitamin C.
Here are a couple of contacts where you can find grumichama seeds and trees: Rare Fruit Council International,9401 SW 16th Street, Miami, FL, 33165
(www.tropicalfruitnews.org); California Rare Fruit Growers, Fullerton Arboretum, CSUF, Fullerton, CA, 92634 (www.crfg.org).