The tree yielding the capulin stands erect, reaching heights 40 to 50 feet (12 to 15 m) from the ground, distinguished by a short stout trunk that is about 3 feet (0.9 m) in diameter. The leaves are deciduous, alternate, and aromatic with the shape of a spear head that comes to a point at the top. The leaves are 2 to 7 inches (6–18 cm) long, dark green and glossy on the top side, and pale on the underside; while new leaves tend to be a rosy color. The leaves are thin and have finely-toothed edges. The flowers begin as slender buds with one or more leaves at the base of the bud. When they open, the flower is 3/4 of an inch (2 cm) wide with white petals and a conspicuous tuft of yellow stamens. The fruit has a heavy aroma and is round, but very small(ranging from 3/8 to 3/4 of an inch (1–2 cm)wide. The skin of the Capulin is red or nearly-black, rarely white or yellowish, with a smooth, thin, tender skin. The juicy pulp is a pale-green and is sweet or slightly acidic, but all of the flavors blend together as a medley of an agreeable and edible pulp. There is a single pit with a very bitter kernel.
The Valley of Mexico from Sonora to Chiapas and Veracruz, and possibly western Guatemala, are the lands to which the Capulin is native to. The Capulin has been cultivated for the areas now including Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, and is extensively and abundantly naturalized. The Capulin was an important food for the Indians, inhabitants, and the Spanish conquistadors who conquored the new lands of the Americas. At times, the Capulin served as the main food group for the Spanish. In native markets, the Capulin appears in great quantities, especially in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Ecuador. In Guatemala, the seedlings of the Capulin are used as rootstock from which commercial cultivars of the northern cherry are grafted. The Capulin is little-known in eastern South America and elsewhere in the world. In 1924, the Capulin was introduced into the cool medium elevations of the Philippines.
The tree of the Capulin grows in a subtropical to subtemperate climate. It grows naturally at elevations between 4000 and 11,000 feet (1200–3400 m). The tree blooms from January to March in Mexico; where as in Guatemala and El Salvador, the flowers appear from January to May. The Capulin will ripen in July and August in Mexico. In Guatemala the Capulin will appear and ripen between May and September; while in El Salvador, the fruiting season extends from December through April.
The Capulin is eaten raw or stewed, and even preserved whole or made into a jam. For special tamales, the Capulin is used as a filler. With the skin and seeds removed, the Capulin can be mixed with milk and served with vanilla and cinnamon as a dessert. The Capulin can also be made into an alcoholic beverage by fermenting it. The chart below shows the nutritional significance of the Capulin:
Seeds-The seeds contain 30-38% of a yellow, semidrying oil suitable for use in soap and paints.
Flowers-The flowers are visited by honeybees and pollinated.
Wood-The sapwood is yellow with hints of red. The heartwood is a reddish-brown color, fine grained, very hard, strong, and durable. The heartwood is used for furniture, interior paneling, cabinets, and general carpentry. Mature, old roots are used for carving tobacco pipes, figurines, and other fine wooden objects.
Medical Uses-A syrup is made from the Capulin to help with respiratory problems and troubles. When the leaves are boiled, they can be given to reduce fever and to halt diarrhea and dysentery; and also can be applied to relieve inflammation. When crushed and pounded, the bark can be employed as an eyewash. Infused leaves can be used to help headaches and other aching.
Health-The leaves contain essential oil, fat, resin, tannin, amygdalin, glucose, a brown pigment and mineral salts. The bark contains, brown pigment, amygdalin, starch, gallic acid, fat, calcium, potassium, and iron. The bark, leaves, and seeds(when in contact in water) must be used carefully because they can release HCN(Hydrogen Cyanide).