This special berry is the small, round, blacky purple soft fruit of the Euterpe oleracea, more commonly known as the ‘acai palm’.
This name is a Portuguese adaptation of the Tupian word ïwaca’i, which means, “fruit that cries or expels water”. The trees this fruit grows on are native to both Central and South America as the swamplands and floodplains of these areas provide them with an ideal climate in which to flourish.
How is this tree and its fruit used?
In the areas it grows, the leaves are often made into useful items such as hats, mats and roof thatch for homes, while the wood of the acai berry palm tree – a natural pest repellent – is used in building and construction.
As well as having its practical uses, this tree is used for food. The trunk can be processed in order to yield minerals, and the palm heart is widely regarded as a delicacy. However, it is the berry itself that is used the most as a food source. This wonderfully nutrient rich fruit can be enjoyed without any preparation, however, in lots of South American countries, fans of the berry freeze it and eat it with granola and oats for breakfast.
Acai berry can also be pressed to make delicious juices and even alcoholic beverages – double the pleasure!
The importance of this superfruit should not be underestimated – one study discovered that three traditional Caboclo populations in the Brazilian Amazon featured acai berry as a major part of their diet, making up over 40% of everything they ate. This could well be because the fruit has since been shown to offer a rich source of vitamins A and C, as well as a mix of powerful antioxidants, iron and amino acids.