The shrub or tree grows to 25‘ high, has slender, spreading branches and aromatic foliage. The 7- to 8-ribbed fruit is 3/4 to 1 1/2 “ wide, turns from green to orange as it develops and, when mature, bright-red to deep-scarlet or dark, purplish maroon when fully ripe. The skin is thin, the flesh orange-red and very juicy; acid to sweet, with a touch of resin and slight bitterness. There may be 1 fairly large, round seed or 2 or 3 smaller seeds.
The Surinam cherry grows in almost any type of soil–sand, stiff clay, soft limestone–and can even stand waterlogging for a time, but it is intolerant of salt.
The ripe fruits is eaten out-of-hand. Cut a slit vertically on one side, spread open to release the seed(s), and kept chilled for 2 or 3 hours to dispel most of their resinously aromatic character. If seeded and sprinkled with sugar before placing in the refrigerator, they will become mild and sweet and will exude much juice. They are often made into juice, jelly, relish or pickles. Brazilians ferment the juice into vinegar or wine.
The seeds are extremely resinous and should not be eaten. The leaves have been spread over the floors of homes and when walked upon, they release their pungent oil which repels flies.