Berry Interesting: A Complete History of the Acai Tree
If you haven’t tried an acai bowl, then you are missing out on a wonderful fruit! But where does it come from? Let’s find out as we learn about the acai tree.
If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably heard about the amazing health benefits of acai. It’s a superfood! But what exactly does that mean, and where does it come from?
With so many “miracle foods” on the market these days, it can be hard to figure out which ones are legitimately good for you. Some are a waste of money, but acai has a long history to support its effectiveness.
Indigenous communities have been harvesting acai berries from the acai tree for centuries. They have great respect for the plant’s healing properties, and many villages are eager to share its advantages with the world.
Before you order that delicious-looking acai bowl, read on to learn more about the acai palm and why you should add more of its fruit to your diet.
All About the Acai Tree
The acai palm is a tall palm tree native to tropical areas of Central America and South America. It exists from northern Belize to the southern regions of Brazil and Peru. It is particularly common in the Amazon Rainforest.
The trunk of the acai tree is thin and ridged and can grow to more than 80 feet. Each of its huge, feather-like leaves is about 10 feet long.
Grape-sized acai berries grow in clusters near the top of the tree. They are dark purple in color, and each palm produces up to 1,000 berries twice a year. Like coconuts and plums, acai berries are drupes.
Acai trees require plenty of water to survive, so they thrive near rivers and in wet, swampy areas.
Who Ate Acai First?
It’s hard to say exactly who ate acai first, but indigenous people in places such as Oiapoque, Brazil have been harvesting it for hundreds of years. Tribal medicine men likely tested the berries before sharing them with other community members.
Acai pulp is traditionally served cold if a cooling method is available. It is often mixed with tapioca (derived from the cassava root) and natural sweeteners to make a pudding.
More modern preparations include juices, sodas, and acai rice pudding. Acai berry salad is also common.
Animals also love the acai tree, and they have probably been enjoying its fruit for longer than humans. Deer, marmosets, toucans, parrots, and insects snack on acai berries. Bees like to build their hives close to the sweet nectar produced by the acai palm’s flowers.
How to Harvest Acai
The traditional way to harvest acai is by hand. Children as young as 7 learn to lace palm leaves around their feet for grip, then climb to the top of the tree to cut berry clusters. They are skilled at carrying the harvesting knife between their teeth while they climb.
With the berries in hand, they slowly slide back down the trunk of the palm. They repeat the process to gather all of the acai.
Although the acai tree grows abundantly in the wild, the global demand for its superfruit is huge. There is an opportunity for indigenous farmers to benefit from its popularity. Many villages have started farming acai sustainably to sell in larger Brazilian cities and for international export.
An acai berry begins to ferment as soon as it leaves the tree. The berries are processed quickly after harvesting to preserve their flavor and nutritional value.
How Is Acai Processed?
The best acai is processed naturally, without preservatives or additives. After the berries are cut from the acai palm, they are soaked in water to soften the skin and flesh.
Next, a machine separates the large seeds from the edible parts of the fruit. The skin and pulp are blended and strained to remove any remaining seed particles. The final mixture is frozen right away to maintain its health benefits.
The seeds don’t go to waste – villagers polish them to make beads for jewelry, add them to livestock feed, or use them as fertilizer. Fallen leaves from the acai tree are sometimes turned into hats or rugs or used to make thatched roofs.
The Rise of the Acai Tree
You might be wondering how the humble acai tree gained global popularity. As transportation routes improved in Brazil, acai berries started to reach the markets in metropolitan coastal areas.
In the 1990s, Brazilian surfers and wellness enthusiasts discovered energizing, refreshing acai bowls, and the trend caught on. Smoothies and bowls were marketed as a post-surf session snack, and beachgoers couldn’t get enough.
Traveling surfers spread the idea to Hawaii and Southern California, then to the rest of the world. Today, acai bowls are even available in small towns, widely appreciated for their taste and health benefits.
The Healthiest Way to Eat Acai
The berries produced by the acai palm offer many health benefits. They contain polyphenols that are high in antioxidants, compounds that can slow or prevent cell damage. Antioxidants can have anti-aging and even anti-carcinogenic effects.
Acai also contains healthy fatty acids, vitamins A and C, and a variety of minerals from Amazonian soil – the same soil that supports the most diverse ecosystem on our planet!
Indigenous groups use the acai berry to treat constipation, diarrhea, and nausea. It can also soothe skin allergies and lower bad cholesterol.
If you’re ready to enjoy some of these benefits, the best way to eat acai is in its purest form. Organic, unsweetened acai pulp is packed with flavor and nutrients. If you have a sweet tooth, acai sweetened with natural guarana extract is also a great choice.
When you order acai from a restaurant or shop, ask for a list of ingredients to avoid putting anything unhealthy in your body.
Enjoy the Acai Tree’s Gift
Now that you know exactly where acai comes from, you can feel good about adding it to your diet. The acai tree provides an invigorating, nourishing gift to humans all over the world.
You can experiment with enjoying acai pulp as an ingredient in bowls, smoothies, sorbet, ice cream, energy bars, and even supplements. Your body will thank you for the pure dose of energy and nutrition.
If you’re ready to get started, buy acai online via our website. Our products are delicious and organic, and we will deliver them directly to your doorstep.