Surinam cherries, also known as Spanish cherries, West Indian cherries, Oregon cherries, and pitanga, are a colorful and flavorful exotic fruit that can instantly bring new life to any dish. This unique fruit is native to Brazil and Guyana, with its prime growing regions stretching from Mexico to northern South America, most notably including Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela. It has a complex and sweet flavor with tropical undertones which make it a popular choice among culinary artists and food enthusiasts alike.
Surinam cherries have been a beloved ingredient for hundreds of years in many parts of South America and the Caribbean. They’re most commonly used in pies, ice cream, jams, and other desserts, and their flavor and vibrant color are often paired with lemon or lime for exciting flavor combinations. The flavor of surinam cherries is somewhere between tangy and sweet and is often compared to tart apples and sweet pears.
Surinam cherries are also gaining popularity for their numerous health benefits, including their high antioxidants and protein content. They're typically low in calories and fat, and they're a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as dietary fiber, magnesium, and iron. They can help reduce inflammation, reduce the risk of heart disease, and lower cholesterol levels. Plus, they can help promote healthy skin, hair, and vision.
Surinam cherries can be found either fresh or frozen, but it’s important to choose ones that are plump and lacking bruises or any visible blemishes. Avoid picking cherries that are extremely soft or have black spots on their skins, as these could be signs of spoilage. When shopping for frozen surinam cherries, pick ones that were fresh picked and frozen immediately after—this will help ensure that they’re as flavorful as possible.
To prepare fresh surinam cherries, simply rinse them off in cool water and remove the pit. You can then either eat them raw as an on-the-go snack, or add them to salads, smoothies, desserts, and other recipes. Just one cup of diced surinam cherries can provide almost two grams of dietary fiber, an impressive amount for such a small fruit.
As far as cooking goes, the possibilities are endless. Surinam cherries pair especially well with pork, fish, poultry, and beef dishes, as well as grilled vegetables. They can also be cooked down into syrups and jams, and blended into a compote or pureé to be served with ice cream and other desserts.
Surinam cherries are definitely worth looking out for the next time you’re at the grocery store or farmers market—their unique flavor and long list of health benefits make them a great addition to any meal. Whether you’re looking for something sweet to take on-the-go for a snack, or something exotic to add to a dish, Surinam cherries are a great choice.