There is something truly wonderful about standing in the shade of a Capulin tree with ripe cherries, and picking them and eating them right there on the spot. I have such fond memories of Capulin cherry picking as a kid! I used to love climbing trees and probably spent more time navigating the top branches than I did actually picking Capulines. I can eat hundreds of the yummy fruits filled with hundreds of extremely tiny seeds. Capulines are so delicious that you can become addicted to it. Have you ever tasted a Muntingia calabura cherry before? If you haven’t, you’ve been missing out!
The Capulin cherry, Muntingia calabura L., is a member of the family Elaeocarpaceae. It has acquired a wide assortment of vernacular names, among them capuli or capulin which are better limited to Prunus salicifolia. Capulin is a small tree 7-12 meters tall with tiered and slightly drooping branches. It has serrated leaves 2.5 long and 1-6.5 cm wide. The flowers are small, white and slightly malodorous. It gives rise to 1-1.5 cm light red fruit. The fruit is edible, sweet and juicy, taste quite like cotton candy and contains a large number of tiny (0.5 mm) yellow seeds.
Muntingia calabura cherry is indigenous to southern Mexico, Central America, and tropical South America. It is widely cultivated in warm areas of the New World and in India, Southeast Asia, Malaya, Indonesia, and the Philippines, in many places so thoroughly naturalized that it is thought by the local people to be native. They are a favorite with birds and bats, which disperse the seeds. Although it provides good shade, it is not a popular wayside tree because the birds and bats that visit the tree also leave their droppings under the tree.
In Florida, it has been nicknamed strawberry tree because its blooms resemble strawberry blossoms, but strawberry tree is a well-established name for the European ornamental and fruit tree, Arbutus unedo L., often cultivated in the western and southern United States, and should not be transferred to the Capulin cherry. The Malaysian common name “Ceri Kampung” means “village cherry” in English. In Malaysia, the muntingia tree is found in many urban areas lining the sides of streets in front of row houses. There the muntingia produces great quantities of fruit. Buying the fruit at stores is impossible because people eat the free fruit that grows along the streets. Children climb these trees to pick the fruit and fill tubs for themselves and their family to eat. Fruit from Muntingia is also harvested for export overseas. In nations where the climate is inhospitable to the Muntingia the fruit is considered a luxury and sold at a premium.