This is a better fruit than several other species of Eugenia which are much more widely grown. It is found both wild and cultivated in southern Brazil, particularly in the states of Parana and Santa Catharina. Elsewhere, with the exception of Hawaii, it is scarcely known.
The tree, which grows to the same size as the orange, is shapely and attractive in appearance, with ovate-elliptic, glossy, deep green leaves 2 to 3 inches long. The small white flowers are followed by pendent fruits, round or slightly flattened, the size of a cherry, and deep crimson in color. The persistent green sepals which crown the apex are a distinguishing characteristic. The skin is thin and delicate; the flesh soft, melting, of a mild subacid flavor suggesting that of a Bigarreau cherry.
The seeds are round or hemispherical when one or two in number; sometimes there are three or more, in which case the size is reduced and they are angular.
The rapidity with which the fruits develop is surprising; within a month from the time of flowering they have reached maturity and are falling to the ground. Father Tavares states that all the trees do not ripen their crops at the same time, some blooming later than others and thus extending the fruiting season from November to February (in Brazil). Three varieties are distinguished by him, one with dark red flesh, another with vermilion, and the third with white. All three are said to be equally good in quality. The fruit is usually eaten fresh, but may also be used to make jams and preserves.
The grumichama (sometimes grumixama, to conform to old Portuguese orthography) has recently been planted in California and Florida. In the latter state it has withstood a temperature of 26° without injury, which indicates that it is subtropical, rather than strictly tropical, in character. It prefers a deep sandy loam, but succeeds in Florida on shallow sandy soils. Vaughan MacCaughey says: "In the Hawaiian islands it is usually about 20 feet high. It requires considerable moisture for its best development, as do all the Eugenias in our flora; the largest crops are borne by plants at the lower levels, up to 300 feet . . . flowering and fruiting continues from July until December, the main crop coming in the fall. . . . The first plants in Hawaii were probably introduced by the Spaniard, Don Francisco de Paula Marin, who came to the islands in 1791." The grumichama is sometimes listed as Eugenia brasiliensis, Lam. Stenocalyx brasiliensis, Berg, is another synonym.
Fig. 39. The grumichama (Eugenia Dom-beyi), a little-known fruit from southeastern Brazil. (X |)
Seedlings are said to commence fruiting when four or five years old. They grow rather slowly. No one appears to have budded or grafted the species as yet. For its value as an ornamental plant as well as for its pleasant fruit, the grumichama deserves cultivation throughout the tropics and subtropics.