Cherry of the Rio Grande is a delicious subtropical fruit with a sweet, cherry-like flavor. It is recommended for USDA Zones 9-11 and is hardy to 20° F once established. It is one of the more cold-tolerant members of the Eugenia genus.
Eugenia aggregata is native to Brazil. It grows slowly to about 12-15 foot in height with a somewhat shrubby habit. It is a very ornamental plant with dark, glossy, green leaves. Showy, fragrant, white flowers appear in the spring. The fragrance is carried a considerable distance on a light breeze.
The oblong purple-black fruits ripen about three weeks after flowering. Fruit flies don't seem to bother the fruit, but birds like to peck at them once they start turning color. You'll have to watch them closely--fruits will be green one day, red the next and black the following day. These are edible when they're red and they'll also ripen to black a day after picking, so if birds are a problem, just keep them picked before they're fully ripe.
These are often compared to Bing cherries, but these have much more flavor! They can be eaten fresh, juiced, or made into jellies or jams. Fruits can be up to 1 inch in diameter. The ripe fruits reportedly freeze well but mine are usually all consumed right off the tree!
Cherry of the Rio Grande requires very little maintenance, but they do benefit from adequate watering during the period of flowering and fruiting. In Florida, this corresponds with the dry season, so supplemental watering may be required for good production.
As the plant ages, the outer bark exfoliates, giving it added visual interest.
Attractive foliage, interesting bark, fragrant flowers, and delicious fruit... This plant has it all!