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Capulin cherries are an aromatic, round fruit, colored red with a green tint to nearly maroon-black, smooth, tender skin. The juicy, light green, firm pulp is typically sweet with some astringency similar to wild cherries in some cases. The hard center pit is proportionately large compared to the small fruit.
Capulin cherries are available late spring through late summer.
Capulin cherries are botanically known as Prunus salicifolia and are a member of the Rosaceae family. Capulin cherries are related to the Sweet cherry, Western Sand cherry, Myrobalan plum, Sour cherry, Beach plum, Nanking cherry, the common chokecherry and others. Capulin cherries are common in the markets of Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador, and the Andean regions, yet this fruit has yet to receive commercial success in other countries. Common names for this fruit include Capulin, Capuli, Capolin, Ascerezo, Deste, Detze, Taunday, Jonote, or Cerezo Criollo. A few growers are experimenting with grafting or utilizing Capulin cherries as rootstock with commercial cultivars of northern cherry varieties in hopes to develop an earlier ripening fruit.
Capulin cherries are a good source of calcium, phosphorous, fiber and vitamin C.
Capulin cherries are very versatile and can be eaten raw, stewed, preserved whole or cooked down into jam. They make a unique sweet and sour filling for tamales. When peeled, seeded, and cooked, the Capulin cherries can be mixed with milk or heavy cream and infused with vanilla and cinnamon for a creamy dessert. These cherries can even be fermented into a tangy wine-like alcoholic beverage. Once ripe, Capulin cherries should be stored in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag for only a few days.
Capulin cherries have natural medicinal uses once made into syrup to alleviate respiratory troubles. The cherries are also said to have been a staple fruit for Native Indians and the Spanish conquistadors in Central America. The leaves of the Capulin cherry tree contain essential oils that have been used to alleviate digestive issues and as a sedative.
The Capulin cherry is native and common throughout Guatemala and the Sonora, Chiapas and Veracruz regions of Mexico. It has been cultivated since early times in these areas as well as other parts of Central America and specifically in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. It is believed that the tree was introduced into California and to some areas of the Philippines in the 1920s. The tree flourishes in a subtropical to subtemperate climate, and grows naturally at elevations between 4,000 to 11,000 feet.
People have spotted Capulin Cherries using the Specialty Produce app for iPhone and Android.
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