Acai berries are the latest craze in the healthy food industry. But what is an acai berry? Where do they come from? And do they really provide lots of health benefits? Read on to find out the answers to these questions and more.
What is an Acai Berry?
The acai berry (pronounced: assa-ie) grows on the acai palm in Brazil, Peru, and Suriname. The dark purple fruit has become known in recent years for its supposed beneficial effects and taste. The taste is described as a rich combination of blueberry and dark chocolate.
Although the acai looks like a berry, it is actually a drupe (stone fruit). Stone fruits are fruits with a hard stone in the core, such as the cherry and peach. The shape is compared to the blue grape, only the acai berry is smaller and round.
Where do acai berries grow?
The purple gem grows in clusters in tall palm trees, which can reach a height of 25 meters. These trees have been a source of food and material in different cultures for centuries. Everything from the tree is used – the fruit as medicine and food, the leaves and wood for building huts, and the heart of palm as a vegetable. In fact, for some indigenous tribes, acai was the main source of daily nutrition.
Since acai spoils very quickly, the unprocessed fruit should be processed and eaten within days of harvest. Because of this rapid perishability, for centuries only local communities around the Amazon have been able to reap the benefits of acai’s healthful properties.
The popularity of acai began to soar when it was discovered how to preserve its freshness and nutritional value. By processing and freezing the fruit immediately after harvesting, people outside the Amazon could also enjoy this natural source of energy.
Why is acai so healthy?
The fruit has been very popular throughout Brazil for a long time, especially as ‘açaí na tigela’ (acai in the bowl). It is usually served as frozen fruit pulp in a bowl with guarana and various toppings, such as banana, granola, or coconut.
In recent years, the acai has grown in popularity around the world as a symbol of a healthy, active, and tropical lifestyle. The fruit quickly became popular with athletes of all levels and is now an indispensable part of Brazilian beach culture.
The acai is naturally full of vitamins and minerals. For example, acai contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, vitamin C, proteins, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, fiber, and omega 3, 6, and 9. The many antioxidants make the acai a real booster for your immune system.
Antioxidants are substances that fight free radicals. Free radicals are naturally present in the body, but at too high concentrations can cause cell damage. Therefore, a daily dietary source of antioxidants is necessary for a healthy body.
Most acai comes from Brazil, hand-picked by communities focused on sustainable agriculture. In this way, they ensure that many hectares of the tropical natural environment are preserved. Together with suppliers and farming communities, acai growers are committed to fair trade so that farmers work in good conditions with the prospect of economic stability.
Buy and store acai berry
It is almost impossible to buy acai berries in the USA in their original form.
The fruit is very delicate and is therefore eaten locally or freeze-dried and processed into a powder. It is best to keep the berries fresh in the refrigerator after purchase.
More and more juices with acai berry or juice from the acai berry can be found, also in the supermarket.
Acai powder or pulp?
Acai powder is made from dried acai berries. You can find this acai powder in health supermarkets, and Amazon also has a large selection. You stir or blend the powder into your smoothie or batter.
Frozen acai pulp is also available. It is harder to find than acai powder, but you can get it on Amazon. In an acai bowl, you immediately notice the difference in taste between acai powder and pulp. In the pulp, the berries taste stronger, making them tastier.
Cultivation and season
The acai berry (pronounced: assa-ie) grows on the acai palm in Brazil, Peru, and Suriname. The berry grows in large clusters of hundreds of berries. The large trusses are cut from the tree.
The small (2 to 2.5 cm) fruit contains a large, inedible seed that takes up about 80% of the fruit.
The palm can be harvested two to four times a year.
Acai berry flavor
The taste of the acai berry is reminiscent of blueberry, chocolate, and nuts.
The fresh acai berry is used like this:
The berries are separated from their stone. The obtained pulp is thus eaten by the local population in South America.
You can use the dried acai berry (powder form) like this:
– Is delicious in smoothies and juices.
– In low-fat/semi-skimmed quark.
– In yogurt with pieces of fresh fruit, such as pear and strawberry.
How do you make an acai bowl?
You can make an acai bowl with either acai powder or acai pulp.
When you work with acai powder, you start by blending your frozen fruit and any other ingredients. Finally, add 1 to 2 tbsp. of acai powder and mix again.
It is much the same with pulp. You add your frozen fruit and possibly some moisture (water or apple juice for a sour touch). In 1 to 2 minutes you blend it into a smooth paste that resembles the texture of ice cream.
You eat the acai bowl plain or finish with toppings of your choice.
You can find a more detailed acai bowl recipe here.