Malpighia emarginata is a tropical fruit-bearing shrub or small tree in the family Malpighiaceae.
Common names include acerola, Barbados cherry, West Indian cherry and wild crepe myrtle. Acerola is native to South America, southern Mexico, and Central America, but is now also being grown as far north as Texas and in subtropical areas of Asia, such as India.
It is known for being extremely rich in vitamin C, almost as much as camu camu, although it also contains vitamins A, B1, B2, and B3, as well as carotenoids and bioflavonoids, which provide important nutritive value and have antioxidant uses.
After three years, trees produce significant numbers of bright red drupes 1–3 cm (0.39–1.18 in) in diameter with a mass of 3–5 g. Drupes are in pairs or groups of three, and each contains three triangular seeds. The drupes are juicy and very high in vitamin C (3-46 g/kg) and other nutrients. They are divided into three obscure lobes and are usually acidic to subacidic, giving them a sour taste, but may be sweet if grown well. While the nutrient composition depends on the strain and environmental conditions, the most common components of acerola and their concentration ranges, per 1000 g, are: proteins (2.1-8.0 g), lipids (2.3-8.0 g), carbohydrates (35.7-78 g), calcium (117 mg), phosphorus (171 mg), iron (2.4 mg), pyridoxine (87 mg), riboflavin (0.7 mg), thiamine (0.2 mg), water (906-920 g) and dietary fibre.
The fruit is edible and widely consumed in the species native area, and is cultivated elsewhere for its high vitamin C content. About 1677.6 mg of vitamin C are in 100 g of fruit. The fruit can be used to make juices and pulps, vitamin C concentrate, and baby food, among other things.
A comparative analysis of antioxidant potency among a variety of frozen juice pulps was carried out, including the acerola fruit. Among the 11 fruit pulps tested, acerola was the highest-scoring domestic fruit, meaning it had the most antioxidant potency, with a Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity score of 53.2 mg.