Açaí is the fruit of the palm tree Euterpe oleraceae. Açaí palms are indigenous to the areas surrounding the Amazon River in South America. The palms have been a staple in the Amazon for centuries, valuable for subsistence production, traditional medicine, and regional commerce. The tree has many uses, from building and weaving of stalk material to its highly prized palm hearts and berries.
The fruit is smaller than a grape; it is round and purplish, with the seed accounting for more than three-quarters of the fruit’s size. The berries can be eaten fresh or prepared, added to smoothies, ice cream, yogurt, juice, wine, and liquor.
Açaí has steadily grown in popularity due to its classification as a ‘super food’ and high percentage of healthy fatty acids, proteins, anthocyanins, and antioxidants.
References: Palm and Cycad Societies of Australia, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, University of Illinois Extension.
TYPES, VARIETIES & CUTS
As açaí has only recently entered the U.S. market, there is still uncertainty regarding optimal species and types. According to current research, there are two primary types: purple açaí, also called black açaí, is the most well-known variety; the other is green açaí, which is far less popular and has fruit that ripens to a shiny dark greenish color.
There is ongoing research in Brazil into the development of optimal varieties. One that has already been developed is BRS-Para Dwarf, which produces a tree smaller in height and matures earlier than other types.
References: Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, University of Illinois Extension.