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Exotic Fruits Reference Guide

Exotic Fruits Reference Guide

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Exotic Fruits Reference Guide

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Jan 5, 2018


Exotic Fruits Reference Guide is the ultimate, most complete reference work on exotic fruits from around the world. The book focuses on exotic fruit origin, botanical aspects, cultivation and harvest, physiology and biochemistry, chemical composition and nutritional value, including phenolics and antioxidant compounds. This guide is in four-color and contains images of the fruits, in addition to their regional names and geographical locations. Harvest and post-harvest conservation, as well as the potential for industrialization, are also presented as a way of stimulating interest in consumption and large scale production.

  • Covers exotic fruits found all over the world, described by a team of global contributors
  • Provides quick and easy access to botanical information, biochemistry, fruit processing and nutritional value
  • Features four-color images throughout for each fruit, along with its regional name and geographical location
  • Serves as a useful reference for researchers, industrial practitioners and students
Jan 5, 2018

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Exotic Fruits Reference Guide - Academic Press


Açaí—Euterpe oleracea

Maria do S.P. de Oliveira and Gustavo Schwartz,    Embrapa Eastern Amazon, Belém, Para, Brazil


Açaí palm (Euterpe oleracea Mart. family Arecaceae) is a native species from the river Amazon’s basin. It grows in clumps up to 20 stems that can together produce 120 kg of fruit per year or even more under management systems. Nearly 7%–25% of the açaí fruits are edible (epicarp and mesocarp). For consumption, fruits are macerated with water and filtered, which results in a purple juice. This juice is rarely consumed without a side dish or in a mix with other products due to its low appreciated taste. In the state of Pará, Brazil, where more than 90% of açaí is produced, people traditionally consume it with tapioca flour. Outside Pará, in other Brazilian states and countries, consumers prefer processed açaí in blends with banana, guarana, condensed milk, and cereals. About 90 bioactive substances are found in açaí, including flavonoids (31%), phenolic compounds (23%), lignoids (11%), and anthocyanins (9%). Açaí fruits are significantly caloric due to their high lipid levels (21%–53%). They also present total fibers (17%–71%), proteins (6%–12%), and carbohydrates (36%–43%). Lipids from the processed pulp have high levels of unsaturated fatty acids (68%–71%) with a profile similar to the olive and avocado oil. Because of its composition and consequent benefits to the human health, açaí is considered a functional food. Pulp of açaí has been used in the food industry as a natural pigment, cosmetic, pharmaceutic, oil extraction, sweets, gelatine capsules, powders, and teas. Moreover, seeds of açaí have been used for manufacturing bio jewels.


Anthocyanin; Amazonian fruits; tropical forest fruits; lipid; Arecaceae; functional food

Chapter Outline

Açaí Origin, Ecology, Botany, and Socioeconomic Importance 1

Harvest Season 3

Estimated Annual Production and Harvest/Postharvest Conservation 3

Fruit Physiology, Biochemistry, Chemical Composition, and Nutritional Value 4

Sensory Characteristics 4

Industrial Application or Potential Industrial Application 4

References 5

Açaí Origin, Ecology, Botany, and Socioeconomic Importance

Açaí (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) is a palm species (family Arecaceae) native from the river Amazon’s basin. This palm species is also known as acai, assai, or huasai. Because of the denomination açaí, the species is often confused with its sister species, the lone-açaí (Euterpe precatoria Mart.). The main difference between the two species is that E. oleracea occurs in clumps of many stems while E. precatoria always occurs in a single stem (Oliveira et al., 2015).

Individuals of açaí are commonly found in high densities spread over swamps and floodplains in clumps that can have up to 20 stems (Cavalcante, 2010). Açaí palms have cylindrical, ringed, erect, fibrous, and branchless stems, which can reach 30 m in height and 18 cm in diameter (Fig. 1). High stem heights are only reached by individuals in their natural environments under competition against other palms and trees inside a forest. Cultivated açaí palms are not as tall as those in nature, because they face less or no competition from other palms or trees (Oliveira et al., 2012).

Figure 1 Açaí (Euterpe oleracea) palms with many stems per clump. Source: Photo by Maria do Socorro Padilha de Oliveira.

Each açaí stem supports on average 10–12 compound leaves of 3.5 m in length, all of them spirally arranged. Scars left by fallen leaves are found along the whole stem forming nodes and internodes (Henderson, 2000; Fig. 1). Açaí’s roots are fasciculated, dense, and superficial, with lenticels and aerenchymas sizing 1 cm in diameter. These roots are reddish and usually grow 30–40 cm above ground. They are densely aggregated around each stem basis.

Male and female flowers develop in the same inflorescence, hence açaí is a monoecious species. In terms of reproduction, cross-fertilization is the most common system as incompatibility and flowering asynchrony of male and female flowers are observed (Oliveira et al., 2012). However, up to 12.9% of self-fertilization (autogamy) can occur in the species (Souza, 2002).

There are two main varieties of açaí palm: the purple or black, and the green or white açaí, where the difference is in the fruit’s skin (epicarp) color of ripe fruits (Oliveira et al., 2015). Purple açaí contains dark skin (Fig. 2) and pulp that is used to produce purplish juice. Green açaí has a shiny dark green pulp and its juice is soft and greenish (Cavalcante, 2010).

Figure 2 Hundreds of ripe açaí (Euterpe oleracea) fruits from the purple variety in a single cluster. Source: Photo by Maria do Socorro Padilha de Oliveira.

Fruits and seeds of açaí are spread out by a wide number of dispersers. Over short distances, fruits and seeds are dispersed by small rodents, while birds, such as toucans, guans, araçaris, parakeets, parrots, and thrushes, spread açaí over long distances. Rivers and humans can also work as dispersal agents (Cymerys and Shanley, 2005). In nature, each açaí cluster is composed by hundreds of fruits (globular drupes) with a slight depression of 1–2 cm in diameter and 0.6–2.8 g in weight (Fig. 2). They are bright green when unripe and purple or opaque green when ripe, depending on the variety (Oliveira, 2002). Each fruit contains a mesocarp 1–2 mm thick, which varies in color, and an edible part (epicarp and mesocarp) representing 7%–25% of the fruit (Cavalcante, 2010). Seeds have a fibrous seed coat, hard endocarp and a small embryo, with abundant recalcitrant endosperm.

Seeds are not dormant and the species regeneration normally occurs through seedling banks. During the seedling stage, açaí is a shade-tolerant plant, but such shade tolerance is no longer observed in adult palms, which normally reach a nearly 20–25 years lifespan. Seeds are an important way of producing açaí seedlings, so they can germinate in a few days. Seed sizes vary from 0.5 to 2.5 cm in diameter and seed weights vary from 0.6 to 2.8 g. These weights result in an average of 900 seeds per kilogram, where the variation ranges from 435 to 1250 seeds per kilogram (Queiroz and Mochiutti, 2001; Oliveira et al., 2015).

Fruit production of açaí appears as an ancient activity of the indigenous people from the Amazon. Nowadays, the palm is widely used by the local people to produce juice and palm heart, two important economic products in the Amazon, especially in the Pará state of Brazil (Oliveira et al., 2015). The juice, obtained by macerating fruits mixed with water, is also known as açaí, which is usually sold unprocessed and pasteurized or as a mixed frozen pulp. Juice is currently the most financially profitable product of the açaí palm for both small farmers and industrial producers. Known as an energy drink, açaí has been accepted beyond the Amazon region. Its juice has been consumed worldwide in beverages, fruit mixes, and icecreams, where consumers recognize it as a pulp with great nutritional power.

Besides the juice production, açaí palms are widely used for ornamentation in gardens and parks of the Amazon region. Moreover, the açaí palm has been planted to grow and protect degraded soils due to its constant leaves deposition and abundant root system to work on soil formation.

In the Amazon region, açaí has a relevant socioeconomic role. The açaí juice is usually consumed with tapioca flour and fish as a side dish, being part of the traditional local food. Pará is the leading açaí production in Brazil, supplying nearly 90% of the Brazilian domestic market (Oliveira et al., 2015). Açaí is widely appreciated in other Brazilian states and countries of the Amazon region. More recently, açaí has also been consumed in southern and southeastern states of Brazil and many countries from South America and other continents (Santana et al., 2008). In addition to the fruit, the palm heart is appreciated and considered a fine dish. Differently from another sister species (Euterpe edulis Mart.) present in the Atlantic forest of South America, the harvesting of palm heart from açaí does not cause the plant death. Thus, the açaí’s palm heart is commercialized in large scale, including exportation. Pasteurization/acidification and juice freezing are part of the industrial processing of açaí. Most of the açaí production in Pará is sold to other non-Amazonian Brazilian states and exported. Consumers outside Pará, to where açaí is sold or exported, usually consume processed açaí in blends with banana, guarana, condensed milk, and cereals.

Harvest Season

Palms of açaí start their reproduction phase (flowering) at nearly four years of age and the fruit production lasts an average 5–10 years after germination. Reproduction can start even earlier in plants under cultivation (Oliveira et al., 2002). The species presents continuous flowering and fruiting, so this means a constant production for the whole year. Flowering peaks happen from February to July and fruiting from August to December (during the rainy season) in the Eastern Amazon (Oliveira et al., 2002).

Estimated Annual Production and Harvest/Postharvest Conservation

A single açaí palm, in nature, can produce 4–8 clusters per year, where each cluster can reach 4 kg on average in weight. Thus, an açaí clump can produce nearly 120 kg of fruit per yearly harvest. In intensively managed açaí crops, the average production is even higher. It can reach 12–15 tons of fruits/ha/year in uplands and floodplains, respectively (Cymerys and Shanley, 2005).

Fruits are harvested when completely mature, but they are not consumed without processing, as they are tasteless and present low yields from the edible parts, when compared to most of the tropical fruits (Oliveira et al., 2015). Ripe fruits, after processing to obtain the açaí juice, present a pasty consistency. The açaí processing is carried out mechanically or manually, where only water is added after the fruit maceration. The water makes it easier to extract pulp and filtrate the obtained juice.

Postharvest conservation of açaí fruits consists of maintaining them under temperatures around 10 °C. Fruit conservation and transport for periods longer than 48 h is traditionally done with bags covered by ice, these bags can carry up to 60 kg of fruit. When fruits or pulp are sold outside Pará or exported, refrigerating chambers are employed to conserve their natural properties (Oliveira et al., 2015).

Fruit Physiology, Biochemistry, Chemical Composition, and Nutritional Value

In the composition of açaí fruits, there are nearly 90 bioactive substances, including flavonoids (31%), phenolic compounds (23%), lignoids (11%), and anthocyanins (9%). Fatty acids, quinoses, terpenes, and norisoprenoids are also found in açaí fruits (Yamaguchi et al., 2015; Carvalho et al., 2017). The açaí juice is a complete food that contains high lipid and fiber quantities, as well as proteins, minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium, nickel, manganese, copper, boron, and chromium), and vitamins (B1 and E). Regarding the nutrient composition, açaí juice is considered as complete as milk (Rogez, 2000).

Anthocyanin is a pigment from the flavonoids class present in high quantities in the purple açaí and is responsible for the characteristic fruit color (Torma et al., 2017; Carvalho et al., 2017). This pigment can offer benefits to the human health. It can help in reducing LDL (bad cholesterol). Pulp of açaí has antiaging properties and antioxidant capacity in blood plasma. It also presents biological activity to reduce oxidative damage, inflammation in brain cells, and coronary disease risk (Heinrich et al., 2011; Yamaguchi et al., 2015). Anthocyanins are very sensible to light, heat, and oxygen, so any delay in processing açaí fruits can interfere negatively with their natural concentration.

Açaí fruits are significantly caloric due to their high lipid levels (21%–53%). Besides lipids, açaí present total fibers (17%–71%), proteins (6%–12%), and carbohydrates (36%–43%). Lipids from the processed pulp have high levels of unsaturated fatty acids (68%–71%). The açaí’s fatty acid profile is similar to the olive and avocado oil (Rogez, 2000; Domingues et al., 2017), which is rich in oleic acid (omega 6) and linoleic (omega 9). Higher amounts of the three following fatty acids are commonly present in açaí: oleic acid (60%), palmitic acid (22%), and linoleic acid (12%). Because of its complex composition and beneficial effects to the human health, açaí has been classified as a functional food.

Nevertheless, the chemical properties and composition of açaí fruits, including anthocyanin, phenolic compounds, acidity, soluble solids, and total solids, vary in relation to genetic features, cultivation system, harvesting techniques, maturation stage, transport time, cleaning process, and maceration (Carvalho et al., 2017; Domingues et al., 2017). Furthermore, the green açaí contains no anthocyanin and lower oil contents compared to the purple açaí.

Sensory Characteristics

Juice of açaí is rarely consumed without mixing with other products, due to its low appreciated taste (Melo Neto et al., 2013). In Brazilian Amazonian states, açaí juice is normally consumed in mixes with tapioca flour (made from manioc) and sugar. Outside this region açaí has been consumed in blends with banana, guarana, condensed milk, and cereals, which significant changes the original açaí taste. The specific composition of açaí fruits permits chemical enzymatic alterations as oxidation. A visible alteration involves color changes of the juice, from purple to brown. This leads to losses of anthocyanin, the most important açaí’s pigment, due to enzymatic action. Hence, açaí oxidation can impair the juice’s sensorial characteristics such as flavor, color, and texture.

Industrial Application or Potential Industrial Application

To make the açaí juice, fruits need to be harvested and transported in clusters. Fruit clusters are received in places that require artisanal or industrial equipment to process fruits to obtain the açaí juice. These processing places and equipment need to be perfectly clean, as the açaí fruits are highly perishable, with a few hours of lifecycle at room temperature. Açaí fruits are highly perishable due to the absence of a protective pulp skin and the fruit chemical composition (Oliveira et al., 2015; Domingues et al., 2017). Fruits have pH≥4.5, which favors microorganism infestations that can include human pathogens.

Besides the traditional use of açaí juice, the processed pulp has been used in north Brazil to make icecream, açaí powder jelly, sweets, and cakes (Cymerys and Shanley, 2005; Yamaguchi et al., 2015). The current domestic market in Brazil and exportation of açaí are increasing. In the Brazilian states out of the Amazon region, açaí has been consumed as frozen pulp and outside Brazil the fruit is mainly consumed as juice. Due to the rapid increase in açaí consumption, new investments in plantings for industrial açaí production and the management of large natural populations have been done, especially in Pará (Nogueira and Santana, 2014).

Pulp of açaí has been used in the food industry as a natural pigment, cosmetic, pharmaceutic, or for oil extraction. Besides the traditional juice, açaí has been used to make sweets, gelatine capsules, powders, and teas (Costa et al., 2013; Carvalho et al., 2010). Seeds of açaí have been used for manufacturing bio jewels. Açaí stem, besides its palm heart extraction, cellulose is produced. These stems have also been traditionally used as a support for rural buildings, lathes for fencing, corrals, walls and rafters for roofing tents, and firewood for ovens.


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15. Queiroz JAL, Mochiutti S. Cultivo de açaizeiros e manejo de açaizais para produção de frutos Documentos 30 Macapá: Embrapa Amapá; 2001; 33 pp.

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Acerola—Malpighia emarginata

Carlos F.H. Moura¹, Luciana de S. Oliveira², Kellina O. de Souza², Lorena G. da Franca³, Laiza B. Ribeiro¹, Pahlevi A. de Souza³ and Maria R.A. de Miranda²,    ¹Embrapa Agroindústria Tropical, Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil,    ²Federal University of Ceará, Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil,    ³Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of Ceará, Limoeiro do Norte, Brazil


It is not precisely determined, but the acerola tree is probably native to islands of the Caribbean and Antilles, although it may be found in the wild and cultivated in northern South America, Central America, and Southern Mexico. The fruit is a drupe and when ripe, has a thin epicarp, a mesocarp (pulp) that represents 70%–80% of total fruit weight, and a trilobed endocarp enveloping an average of one seed that is 3–5 mm in diameter, an oval shape and two cotyledons. The mature or ripe acerola is a very delicate and highly perishable product with a storage life of 2–4 days at temperatures higher than 20°C. Considering its chemical composition (100 g fruit), acerola has a water content ranging from 92% to 95%, 332 kcal of calories which are assigned to carbohydrates (57.24 g), lipids (3.2 g) and protein (16.94 g) contents. Regarding the lipid fraction, the following fatty acids were identified: oleic (31.9%), linoleic (29.2%), palmitic (21.8%), stearic (13.9%) and linolenic (1.3%). The main sugars are fructose and glucose, and to a lesser extent, sucrose. Among the phytochemical constituents of acerola, there are vitamins such as thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3) and provitamin A and minerals as calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. However, its greatest nutritional appeal is a very high content vitamin C ranging from 862.86 to 1465.22 mg/100 g pulp in ripe fruit that can reach up to 3756.06 mg/100 g pulp in immature fruit.


Malpighia emarginata D.C.; quality; postharvest

Chapter Outline

Origin and Botanical Classification 7

Production 8

Harvest 8

Postharvest 8

Postharvest Quality 10

References 13

Origin and Botanical Classification

Acerola or the Barbados cherry tree are the common names of Malpighia emarginata D.C., and its taxonomic classification is: class Magnoliopsida, order Malpighiales, family Malpighiaceae, genus Malpighia, and species M. emarginata D.C.

It is not precisely determined, but the acerola tree is probably native to islands of the Caribbean and Antilles, although it may be found in the wild and cultivated in northern South America, Central America and Southern Mexico. Its dissemination proceeded gradually by the inhabitants of these regions, as they travelled and emigrated to other areas and islands (Manica et al., 2003; Marino Neto, 1986; Montim et al., 2010). According to Santos (2009), there are several genetic acerola materials currently cultivated in Brazil, and among them, those with registry under the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Supply (MAPA, 2012) are Apodi (BRS 235), BRS Cabocla, Cereja (BRS 236), Frutacor (BRS 238), Okinawa, Roxinha (BRS 237), Jaburu (BRS 366), BRS Rubra, Flor Branca, Sertaneja (BRS 152), among others (MAPA, 2012).

The acerola plant is considered a medium sized evergreen shrub, reaching 2–4 m in diameter with a single branched trunk and dense canopy of bent down branches with small dark green leaves, that produce fruit throughout the year (Castro and Kluge, 2003; Portal Sao Francisco, 2017; Sebrae, 2016).

The leaves are opposite with short petioles, oval to elliptical-shaped as their base and apex are often pointy, ranging from 2.5 to 9.0 cm in length and 1.2 to 6.0 cm in width. The adaxial surface is dark green and shiny while, the abaxial surface is light green and their pilosity is more intense in younger leaves (Oliveira et al., 2003).

The flowers are hermaphroditic, arranged in small axillary petiolated clusters with three to five perfect flowers ranging from 2.0 to 2.5 cm in diameter and with buds usually opening at 4–5 a.m. (Oliveira et al., 2003; Sazan et al., 2014). Flower pollination depends on external agents and the effect of pollination influences fruit yield as the number of established fruit may decrease due to self-incompatibility and the absence of an effective pollination (Ritzinger et al., 2004).

Acerola has a high rate of autoincompatibility which results from an interaction between pollen and flower stigma and restrains pollen tube germination in the stigma of the same plant. Autoincompatibility is set as incapacity of a fertile hermaphrodite plant in producing zygotes after self-pollination, it is of importance to genetic improvement programs as a means to obtain hybrids without the need of manual crossings. Cross-pollination is promoted by pollinators as they collect food material in different flowers, whilst pollen is adhered to their body parts (Vilhena and Augusto, 2007).

The acerola tree bears fruit in the first year of development, and from thereon may present four to seven production peaks per year, depending on edaphoclimatic conditions and crop management. The average production ranges from 2.0 kg/plant, in the first year to 47.0 kg/plant in the sixth year and under irrigation, production is continuous year-round (Portal Sao Francisco, 2017; Vilela, 2009).

The fruit is a drupe and when ripe, has a thin epicarp, a mesocarp (pulp) that represents 70%–80% of total fruit weight, and a tri-lobed endocarp enveloping an average of one seed with 3–5 mm in diameter, an oval shape and two cotyledons (Almeida et al., 2000). After fruit establishment, development happens over an average 22 day period leading to a ripe edible pulp which is fleshy, soft, juicy with an acidic flavor and extremely rich in vitamin C (Chitarra and Chitarra, 2006). After maturation, acerola ripening and senescence are fast which makes it difficult to handle and storage after harvest.


The acerola tree is a tropical species characterized by a rapid growth and establishment of disorderly orchards when plants are originated from sexual reproduction with significant differences in plant size and production as well as in fruit size, shape, color, and vitamin C content.

Although acerola is grown in several countries of the Americas, Brazil is currently the largest world producer, consumer and exporter (Sazan et al., 2014). In 1950, acerola was introduced in the Northeast region of Brazil by researchers of the Rural Federal University of Pernambuco, who brought the first seeds from Puerto Rico (Souza et al., 2006). However, in Brazil, its cultivated area grew more intensely during 1988–92 due to greater interest for the fruit’s high vitamin C content by consumers, industrialists, and exporters (Araújo et al., 2007). Acerola is cultivated throughout Brazil´s Northeast, North, South and Southeast regions (Ritzinger and Ritzinger, 2004) with an average production of 29.65 t/ha per year equivalent to 59.3 kg/plant per year (Agrianual, 2010).

The ideal climate for acerola growth is characterized by an average temperature of 26°C and 1200–1600 mm of rainfall with the spacing between plants ranging from 4.0×4.0 to 6.0×6.0 m. Under such conditions of spacing and irrigation, a better productivity may be achieved with 625 plants occupying a hectare and yielding up to 100 kg of fruits/plant per year (Sebrae, 2016).

Regarding its susceptibility to pests, the acerola tree is quite resistant with occasional predation by cochineal bugs and aphids on branches and leaves. However, it is necessary to control fruit fly to avoid greater losses, while the most common diseases are Cercospora, scab and anthracnose (Sebrae, 2016).


Harvest is the removal of whole plant or their parts in a timely manner as to minimize loss. Breeding programs have focused on the improvement of cultivars better adapted to mechanical harvesting systems as a means to lower production costs. Among acerola cultivars, variety BRS 366-Jaburu is well adapted to both manual and mechanized harvesting.

However, fruit harvest is mostly manual and happens on a daily basis, due to accelerated ripening and fragility of produce (Almeida et al., 2000). Moreover, harvest will depend mainly upon the kind of market the fruit is destined for, thus fruit destined for in natura or fresh consumption or processed pulp and juice production should be harvested with a fully ripe red-colored peel (Fig. 1). However, if it is destined for industrial uses as a pharmaceutical or concentrated extracts to supplement other foodstuff, harvesting should be done with immature vitamin C rich green-colored fruit (Table 1). (Portal Sao Francisco, 2017). Fruit destined for more distant markets should be harvested at the physiological maturity with largest size and peel turning red, a stage which requires further care at harvest and postharvest handling so the metabolism will not be accelerated due to injuries or damages. Therefore, after harvest, fruit should be placed and transported to packing house in plastic boxes with a maximum height of 15.0 cm (Almeida et al., 2000).

Figure 1 Acerolas cv. BRS 366 Jaburu in different developmental stages: (A) Immature-green; (B) Physiological maturity-turning red and (C) Ripe-red colored. From Souza, K.O., Moura, C.F.H., Brito, E.S., Miranda, M.R.A., 2014. Antioxidant compounds and total antioxidant activity in fruits of acerola from cv. flor branca, florida sweet and BRS 366. Rev. Brasileira de Fruticul. 36, 294–304.

Table 1

From Figueiredo Neto, A., Reis, D.S., Alves, E., Gonçalves, E., Anjos, F.C., Ferreira, M., 2014. Determinação de vitamina C e avaliação físico-química em três variedades de acerola cultivadas em Petrolina-Pe. Nucleus 11, 83-92; Oliveira, L.S., Moura, C.F.H., Brito, E.S., Mamede, R.V.S., Miranda, M.R.A., 2012. Antioxidant metabolism during fruit development of different acerola (Malpighia emarginata D.C) clones. J. Agric. Food Chem. 60, 7957–7964; Souza, K.O., Moura, C.F.H., Brito, E.S., Miranda, M.R.A., 2014. Antioxidant compounds and total antioxidant activity in fruits of acerola from cv. flor branca, florida sweet and BRS 366. Rev. Brasileira de Fruticul. 36, 294–304.


The mature or ripe acerola (Fig. 1) is a very delicate and highly perishable product with a storage life of 2–4 days at temperature higher than 20°C (Vendramini and Trugo, 2000; Scalon et al., 2004). Thus, the fragility of ripe acerola is by far one of the main problems faced by producers during harvesting, packing, processing, and distribution. The thin and delicate peel of ripe fruit can be easily damaged, resulting in general deterioration of pulp quality. The main reason for acerola perishability is the climacteric maturation behavior with a high respiratory rate, 900 mL CO2/kg per h, in spite of the low ethylene production, 3 µL C2H4/kg per h (Carrington and King, 2002).

After harvest, ripening and senescence proceeds as several physiological reactions take place that result in chlorophyll degradation while other pigments accumulate, reduction of acidity and vitamin C and increase in sugars (Table 1). Therefore, postharvest technologies have been developed to maintain fruit quality for longer storage periods. Thus, whole acerolas harvested at physiological maturity can have their storage life extended to 12 days under refrigeration at 12°C, and an atmosphere modified by polyvinylchloride (PVC) film (Scalon et al., 2004). The storage life of whole ripe fruit can be extended to 3 more days at room temperature (> 20°C), if covered with PVC film (Alves and Filgueiras, 1999).

It is therefore important that producers clearly define which product and/or market is aimed for, thus determining the optimal harvest stage. International markets have different requirements regarding fruit quality, e.g., in Europe, buyers require fruit with a minimum 7.0°Brix of soluble solids (SS), 7.5°Brix to Japan and an average vitamin C content of 1000 mg/100 g pulp to the United States.

For the vitamin C market, after harvest, fruit stability is also affected by sunlight, as exposure to radiation for over 4 h induces a substantial loss of this vitamin, requiring that harvesting occurs at early hours of day. Furthermore, Realini et al. (2015) reported the stability of vitamin C in acerola fruits or derived products depends on both the processing system and storage temperature, and that pasteurization followed by freezing results in greatest vitamin C retention.

Postharvest Quality

Quality refers to a set of attributes or properties that make fruit appreciable as food and can be influenced by several factors. Weight and size are physical characteristics inherent to each species or cultivars, however, they are used as quality criteria for selection and classification of products according to the consumer market (Chitarra and Chitarra, 2006). The mature acerola weighs from 4 to 10 g with a juicy pulp representing up to 80% of total weight, and at this stage, ripe fruit are soft, while an immature green fruit is three times firmer (Table 2) (Batista et al., 2015; Lima et al., 2014; Moura et al., 2007).

Table 2

From Batista, P.F., Lima, M.A.C., Trindade, D.C.G., Alves, R.E., 2015. Quality of different tropical fruit cultivars produced in the lower basin of the São Francisco valley. Rev. Ciência Agr. 46, 176–184; Lima, P.C.C., Souza, B.S., Souza, P.S., Borges, S.D.S., Assis, M.D.O., 2014. Characterization and evaluation of fruits of West Indian cherry. Rev. Brasileira de Fruticul. 36, 550–555.

Fruit firmness is due to cell turgidity and to mechanical properties of biological membranes and cell wall. Lipids are the major constituents of cell membranes, and are highly susceptible to oxidation by free radicals produced as fruit ripens, leading to loss of membrane integrity. Thereby, as acerola ripens, there is an increase in lipid peroxidation degree which is correlated to vitamin C loss (Oliveira et al., 2012), indicating that this antioxidant compound is the major antioxidant protection against cellular oxidative damage in this species.

Among the components of acerola cell wall, pectins have contents varying from 94.93 to 246.71 mg/100 g pulp (Batista et al., 2015) and are responsible for the turbidity and viscosity of juice. When fruit tissue is macerated, soluble pectin is found in the liquid phase, leading to an increase in viscosity, whereas other pectin molecules remain bound to cellulose, and thus facilitate the retention of water. In immature acerola, pectin is insoluble and attached to cellulose microfibrils contributing to cell wall resistance, but during ripening, the pectin structure is modified by enzymes with an increasing solubility (Assis et al., 2008).

In acerola, flavor is influenced by aromatic profile represented by a mixture of volatile compounds as esters, ketones, and terpenes (Table 3) and degradation of flavonoids and tannins, which contribute to the astringency. Ripe acerola has a subtle aroma described as resembling those of apples and slightly sweet (Delva and Schneider, 2013). The distinctive sour taste of these fruits is influenced during maturation by sugar accumulation due to starch hydrolysis or to gluconeogenesis (Oliveira et al., 2011), and mainly by the decrease in acidity as organic acids are consumed as substrates in respiration causing a relative increase in sugar/acid that varies from 4.22 to 8.31 (Lima et al., 2014; Batista et al., 2015).

Table 3

From Delva, L., Schneider, R.G., 2013. Acerola (Malpighia emarginata D. C.): Production, postharvest handling, nutrition, and biological activity. Food Rev. Int. 29, 107–126.

As shown in Table 3, over 65% of the aromatic volatile compounds identified in mature acerola belong to three groups: esters (29%), alcohols (23%), and ketones (16%), among which furfural, 3-methyl-3-butenol, limonene, and hexadecanoic acid are the main constituents (Arrázola et al., 2014). Some of the identified compounds are products of ascorbic acid degradation pathways (Delva and Schneider, 2013).

Color is an important attribute of consumer acceptance and during ripening, it changes from green to red due to chlorophyll degradation enabling preexisting pigments to stand out and/or synthesis of new pigments such as anthocyanins and carotenoids (Prasanna et al., 2007; Moura et al., 2008). In acerola, the yellow color imparted by the carotenoids is masked by reddish pigments such as anthocyanins (Freitas et al., 2006).

The chemical composition of acerola is influenced by genotype, environment and maturation stage. Table 4 shows the average composition of mature acerola pulp with a pH ranging from 2.90 to 3.70 and titratable acidity ranging from 0.70% to 1.87% malic acid, which represents 32% of total acids in mature fruits (Righetto et al., 2005; Maciel et al., 2010). In acerola, the predominant organic acids are malic acid, 0.25%–0.38%, citric, 0.01%–0.03%, and tartaric acid 0.002%–0.01%.

Table 4

The SS influences directly ripe fruit flavor and ranges between 5.48 and 11.46°Brix (Maciel et al., 2010; Lima et al., 2014). As only traits of starch are found in mature acerola, gluconeogenesis is probably the main route for sugar synthesis. However, in mature fruits, other compounds besides organic acids also contribute to the increase in SS for positive correlations with vitamin C, and polyphenols and anthocyanins contents have been reported (Oliveira et al., 2011).

Considering its chemical composition (for 100 g fruit), acerola has a water content ranging from 92% to 95%, 332 kcal of calories which are assigned to carbohydrates (57.24 g), lipids (3.2 g) and protein (16.94 g) contents (Dembitsky et al., 2011). Regarding the lipid fraction, the following fatty acids were identified: oleic (31.9%), linoleic (29.2%), palmitic (21.8%), stearic (13.9%) and linolenic (1.3%) (Medeiros-Aguiar et a1., 2010). The main sugars are fructose and glucose, and to a lesser extent, sucrose (Mezadri et al., 2008).

Among the phytochemical constituents of acerola, there are vitamins as thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), and provitamin A and minerals as calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus (Adriano et al., 2011). However, its greatest nutritional appeal is a very high content vitamin C ranging from 862.86 to 1465.22 mg/100 g pulp in ripe fruit that can reach up to 3756.06 mg/100 g pulp in immature fruit (Figueiredo Neto et al., 2014; Oliveira et al., 2012; Souza et al., 2014). The concentration of this important compound for human health decreases during ripening mainly due to biochemical oxidation. This hypothesis was verified when the compound 3-hydroxy-2-pyrone, a product of oxidative degradation of ascorbic acid, was detected in aroma profile of mature acerola (Vendramini and Trugo, 2000). The synthesis and retention of vitamin C in these fruits are influenced by factors including propagation form as fruit from sexually propagated plants have lower contents than those of plants obtained by asexual methods (Silva, 1994) and, furthermore, the concentration of vitamin C is greatest between 16 and 18 days after anthesis. Postharvest processing and storage strongly affects vitamin C stability, thus acerolas pulp puree stored for 10 months at –18 °C presented a decline of 60% in vitamin C content (Oliveira et al., 2011) and the same authors stated vitamin C was the major contributor to the antioxidant potential of acerola purée.

In acerola, polyphenols are the most abundant secondary metabolites, and as vitamin C, are important antioxidants for humans (Chim et al., 2013). Ripe fruits have high concentrations of total polyphenols ranging from 1561.67 to 2631.34 mg gallic acid equivalent/100 g pulp, among which flavonoids and phenolic acids stand out (Souza et al., 2014). Among the flavonoids, anthocyanins, procyanidins, flavonols, and catechins are the main identified (Schreckinger et al., 2010). Anthocyanins and yellow flavonoids are main responsible for fruit pigmentation, as the characteristic red color of fruit peel is one of the most important indicators of its maturity and its edible quality. The anthocyanin content can vary between 6.49 and 17.72 mg/100 g (Oliveira et al., 2012) and consists mainly of cyanidin 3-O-α-rhamnoside and pelargonidin-3-α rhamnoside, although malvidin 3.5-diglucoside has also been found (Oliveira et al., 2013; Dembitsky et al., 2011). Cyanidin contents have ranged from 58 to 241 mg/100 g dry matter of ripe acerola fruits from six different genotypes (Oliveira et al., 2012). As acerola ripens, the anthocyanin content would be preserved by the high levels of vitamin C, once the latter presents a much higher decay rate than anthocyanin (Oliveira et al., 2013).

The flavonols quercetin and kaempferol are abundant in ripe acerolas with average concentrations of 27 µg/g dry weight and 14 mg/g dry matter, respectively (Betaglion et al., 2015). Oliveira et al. (2012) reported quercetin contents ranging from 12 to 33 mg/100 g dry matter of ripe acerola fruits from six different genotypes. The caffeic phenolic acids, ρ-coumaric and ferulic were also found in fruits of this species (Schreckinger et al., 2010).

Due to its composition, acerola is considered a functional fruit despite the reports that show a reduction in bioactive compounds content during ripening (Oliveira et al., 2012; Souza et al., 2014). Thus, it still presents a high potential in the food industry as a great source of both vitamin C and phenolics that may be used as nutritional supplement or as natural additives to improve the nutritional quality of other foods.


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Ambarella—Spondias cytherea

Benoit B. Koubala¹, Germain Kansci² and Marie-Christine Ralet³,    ¹University of Maroua, Maroua, Cameroon,    ²University of Yaounde, Yaounde, Cameroon,    ³INRA, Nantes Research Center, Nantes, France


Golden apple or ambarella (Spondias cytherea) is a tropical tree belonging to the family of Anacardiaceae. Before encouraging its development, it was at first considered as a backyard tree or forest plant. During its fruit growth, maturation and ripening, many morphological, physiological and biochemical modifications occur. The ripe fruit is characterized by a sweet and pleasant flavor. It is a good source of minerals and vitamin C. Ambarella fruit is mostly eaten fresh but its pulp is suitable for making jams, pickles, relishes, soups, stews, and juices. Ambarella fruit pulp can be used as food additive to improve sensorial and physicochemical properties of food product. Pectic polysaccharides from the pulp can be used in the healing process. The peel of the fruit is a good source of fiber and pectin.


Spondias cytherea; Ambarella; Golden apple; fruits sector

Chapter Outline

Introduction 15

Origin and Distribution 15

Botanical Aspects 16

Taxonomy and Colloquial Names 16

Description 16

Harvest and Production 17

Fruit Physiology and Biochemistry 17

Fruit Development and Maturation 17

Fruit Ripening 18

Chemical Composition and Nutritional Value of the Fruit 18

Sensory Characteristics of the Fruit 20

Conservation 20

Application 20

Acknowledgment 21

References 21


Ambarella, like most other exotic fruits, is tropically widespread. This species has many common names according to the place where it grows. It is called Ambarella, Golden apple, Cajarana or Cassemango. Along with mango and cashew, they are the main economical trees in the family of Anacardiceae (De Laroussilhe, 1980; Morton, 1987). In Africa it is mostly found in Cameroon and Gabon (Pele and Le Berre, 1966). It is also found in many tropical regions and countries such as Florida, Venezuela, Grenada, and Indonesia (Backer and Bakhuisen, 1965; Morton, 1987). Mango tree is more widespread and than ambarella. However, cassemango fruit exhibits the highest amount of organic acid as vitamin C. For a long time, ambarella was not commercially cultivated in some countries. It was at first considered a backyard tree or forest plant. In the last three decades, because of the world crisis in production of commercial crops, some countries have encouraged the development of nontraditional fruit crops. This was the case of golden apple in Grenada (Daulmerie, 1994). According to Bauer et al. (1993), and despite its worldwide distribution and importance, ambarella has received little recognition from scientific community. It is only during the 1990s that research on Spondias cytherea started to increase (Favier et al., 1993; Campbell et Sauls, 1994; Daulmerie, 1994; Vivien and Faure, 1996; Jirovetz et al., 1999). Before this date, only the botanical aspect of the plant was studied.

Origin and Distribution

The ambarella tree grows in humid tropical and subtropical regions. It can grow at an altitude of up to 700 m (Mohammed et al., 2011). Generally, Golden apple is native from Melanesia (Morton, 1987). But specifically it is from Tahiti where the epithet Cytherea is derived from the island of Cythere (Tahiti) (Popenoe, 1979). Before being introduced in Jamaica, it was brought to Mauritius in 1768 (Airy Shaw and Forman, 1967; Morton, 1961). In 1915, this plant first fruited in the Philippines. Nowadays it is cultivated or grown on a small scale in Asia, Indonesia, Australia, Gabon, Cameroon, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad, Central America, Florida, Venezuela and Surinam (Pele and Le Berre, 1966; Morton, 1987; Backer and Bakhuisen, 1965; Popenoe, 1979). According to Airy Shaw and Forman (1967), it is very difficult to distinguish the exact area of indigenous occurrence. But in southeast tropical Asia, the genus Spondias exhibits the maximum diversification.

Botanical Aspects

Taxonomy and Colloquial Names

This plant belongs to the family of Anarcardiaceae (De Laroussilhe, 1980). In 1753, Linnaeaus established the genus Spondias L. The species S. cytherea was described by Sonnerat (Geurts et al., 1986; Airy Shaw and Forman, 1967). According to Campbell and Sauls (1994), no variety have been previously named and described. This species has been variously named: Condondum malaccense, Chrysomelon pomiferum, Evia amara, Evia dulcis, Spondias dulcis, Spondias macrocarpa and Spondias mangifera. But nowadays, only two names exist: S. dulcis Forst. and S. cytherea Sonn. (Airy Shaw and Forman, 1967; Ding Hou, 1978).

S. cytherea or S. dulcis exhibit various colloquial names including some confusion with Spondias mombin (Hot plum). In Gabon and Cameroon where the tree is mostly found in Africa, it is called Cassemango. In Asia, we can have Ambarella, Pomme-cythère or Pommier de cythere, Hot plum and Mokak. In America it is called Caja-mango, Mango jobo, Juplan, Ambarella and Mazana de oro. In the South Pacific it is called Air, Kedongdong, Great hog plum, Dedongdong, Maradda, Ustubal, Aimemiek, Hevi, and Tahitian quince. In Caribbean and Indian Ocean, we have: Jew plum, Ciruela dulce and Prune de cythere (Winton and Winton, 1935; Popenoe, 1979; Morton, 1987; Geurts et al., 1986).


Golden apple is a hermaphroditic tree that can reach a height of 8–25 m and a trunk diameter of 20–40 cm (Fig. 1). It is a straight tree with a cylindrical and highly branched trunk. The bark is smooth and light gray exhibiting a few lenticels and a yellowish sap (Ochse et al., 1961; Popenoe, 1979; Morton, 1987, Mitchell and Daly, 2015). The ornamental, deciduous and pinnate leaves exhibit 4–12 jugate, 11–60 cm long and 9–15 cm long petiole. They are elliptic or obovate–oglong leaflets 6.25–10 cm long and composed of 9–25 glossy leaves. These leaves are very aromatic after being crushed. After the raining season, the leaves fall with a bright yellow color (Geurts et al., 1986; Morton, 1987; Mitchell and Daly, 2015).

Figure 1 Young Ambarella tree bearing mature green fruits. Data from http://www.mi-aime-a-ou.com/Spondias_dulcis.php.

Fruits are gathered in bunches of a dozen and more. Two distinct types of fruits exist: the large type and the miniature or dwarf type (Mohammed et al., 2011). The fruits are oval and are 5–10 cm long with a thin hard skin. At maturity the fruit is green and turns to a golden-yellow color within ripening. A sooty mould can cover extensive areas on fruit skin (Popenoe, 1974; Mohammed et al., 2011). Fruits exhibit an average weight of 150–240 g. The juicy flesh is fibrous and subacid with a terebenthin flavor. The seed shape looks like a virus because of the various fibers on it (Fig. 2). Due to the spiny projections of the fibers into the mesocarp, the flesh is hard to cut (Morton, 1987; Vivien and Faure,

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