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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Açaí Palm - Berries - 'Euterpe oleracea' - fam: Arecaceae

The Açaí Palm, Euterpe oleracea - pron: assai, is a species of palm tree in the genus Euterpe cultivated for its fruit and hearts of palm. Its name comes from the Brazilian Portuguese adaptation of the Tupian word ïwaca'i, 'fruit that cries or expels water'. Global demand for the fruit has expanded rapidly in recent years, and Açaí is now cultivated for that purpose primarily. Euterpe edulis (juçara) is a closely related species which is now the primary source of hearts of palm.

Euterpe oleracea is mostly native to Brazil and Trinidad and northern South America, mainly in swamps and floodplains. Açaí palms are tall, slender palms growing upwards of 25+ meters (82 feet), with pinnate leaves up to 3 meters (9.8 feet) long.

The fruit of the Açaí Palm, commonly known as Açaí berry, is a small, round, black-purple drupe about 1 inch (25 mm) in circumference, similar in appearance to a grape, but smaller and with less pulp, and produced in branched panicles of 500 to 900 fruits. The exocarp of the ripe fruits is a deep purple color, or green, depending on the kind of Açaí, and its maturity. The mesocarp is pulpy and thin, with a consistent thickness of 1 mm or less. It surrounds the voluminous and hard endocarp, which contains a single large seed about 0.25–0.40 inches (7–10 mm) in diameter. The seed makes up about 80% of the fruit. Two crops of fruit are produced each year and is harvested during the dry season, between July and December.

In a study of three traditional Caboclo populations in the Brazilian Amazon, Açaí palm was described as the most important plant species, because the fruit makes up a major component, up to 42% of the total food intake by weight, of their diet.

In 2005, an article published by Greenpeace International, stated that “the tasty dark violet wine of Açaí is the most important non-wood forest product in terms of money from the river delta of the Amazon.” A 2008 Los Angeles Times article noted that while Açaí has been acclaimed by some sources, as a renewable resource that can provide a sustainable livelihood for subsistence harvesters, without damaging the Amazon Rainforest, conservationists worry that Açaí could succumb to the destructive agribusiness model of clear-cut lands, sprawling plantations, and liberal application of pesticides and fertilizer. In May 2009, Bloomberg reported that the expanding popularity of Açaí in the United States, was "depriving Brazilian jungle dwellers of a protein-rich nutrient they’ve relied on for generations." Although most Açaí is grown conventionally, the US company Sambazon established USDA Organic certification for their Açaí palm plantations, in 2003, and has also implemented fair trade certification.

In the general consumer market, Açaí is sold as frozen pulp, juice, or an ingredient in various products from beverages, including grain alcohol, smoothies, foods, cosmetics and supplements. In Brazil, it is commonly eaten as Açaí na tigela.1

REFERENCE:- 1 - Wikipedia - Açaí Palm.


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