Ñangapirí, capulí, or cherry pitanga cayenne Pitanga (Eugenia uniflora) is one of the so-called ‘fruits of the indigenous forests’, growing on a tree that can reach 7.5 m in height, belonging to the family Myrtaceae. The fruit develops and matures quickly, within three weeks after flowering. Harvesting should be done only when the fruit falls into the hand with the simple touch, to avoid the intense resinous flavor when half-ripe. The fruit is a berry, with a persistent calyx up to 4 cm in diameter and eight clearly visible ribs, its color changing from green to orange and purple as it matures. The skin is thin and slightly acidic, protecting a very juicy red flesh, sweet-subacid depending on the degree of maturation. Pitanga is eaten as fresh fruit, either whole or just a part of it, and sprinkled with some sugar to lessen the smell of resin. It can also be used for the preparation of jam, jellies, preserves and juices. In the province of Corrientes the fruit is used to produce ñangapirí liquor as well, by macerating it in brandy, and from the juice wine and vinegar can also be obtained. The infused leaves have diuretic, digestive and anti-diarrheal properties; a decoct made from the bark is used as a gargle for sore throats and as a remedy for other throat ailments. Pitanga fruits are rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and phosphorus. The tree is indigenous of the south American subtropical forests, though at present it can also be found in some tropical regions of Asia and Australia, grown as a crop. Today, the number of specimens of this species has reduced significantly. One reason, unfortunately, is the idea that the woodland ‘is no use for anything’, resulting in its destruction and replacement with commercial crops. It is also true that this fruit is familiar only to the local population and to a limited group of consumers outside the region, and it is mostly ignored by mainstream agricultural science. Pitanga is today growing in subtropical gallery forests of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, both in the wild and in orchards and gardens, mainly for family consumption Cultivation in these countries is still carried on using traditional methods, with a very low yield for area unit.
Image: © Laura Rosano