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Acai Berry From A to Z: 26 Things to Know

Acai Berry From A to Z: 26 Things to Know

A look at acai berries, a "superfruit" from Latin America: benefits, nutrition facts, recipes and all the different uses in the kitchen.

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Açaí na tigela (aka açaí in the bowl). Puree of açaí is a Brazilian speciality, typical of the State of Parà. In the South, from Rio to Florianopolis, it is the star attraction of kiosks and juice bars: blended with banana pulp and various fruit juices (apple juice for instance), it is served in a bowl or glass with roasted muesli, fresh fruit and guarana syrup.

Berries. The açaí palm gives us fruit, or rather berries, of a beautiful dark purple colour. They grow in clusters and their size is similar to that of grapes. Not more than 10% of the berry is made up of flesh and skin, while the remaining part consists of a large inedible seed. Its taste is a mouth-watering cross between dark chocolate and blueberry, with notes of hazelnut.

Cultivar. In Brazil, it is also possible to find açaí berries from the so-called “Branco” palm whose drupes do not vary in colour when ripe, but remain green. Also known as the Tinca açaí, it produces a creamy white puree and is generally thought to be more digestible, with a nicer flavour.

Diet. For centuries, the staple diet of native Brazilian populations has leaned heavily on açaí berries, which are rightly believed to be nutrient-rich. Even today, in many Amazonian villages, they represent 42% of the total daily intake of calories.

Euterpe oleracea. This is the scientific name of the very tall palm tree (it can reach up to 25 metres in height), also known as the açaizero or "tree of life", bearing açaí drupes. It mainly grows wild in the state of Pará, in the swampy northern areas of the Amazon forest.

Frozen. Unless you are actually in Brazil close to a market selling the fresh berries of this plant, the popular puree is mainly to be found in frozen or deep-frozen form.

Google. In the course of last year, the number of queries registered by the well-known search engine relating directly or indirectly to "açaí-bowls" has more than doubled.

Hawaii. Who were the first açaí bowl trendsetters outside Brazil? Apparently, the fast-spreading fashion for blended puree served in a bowl and enhanced in various ways first took off in the Hawaii islands. After which, it caught on all along the West Coast, from Los Angeles to San Francisco and slowly gained ground in the other US States by plumping the offering of milkshake and juice bars or triggering the opening of specialist venues, food trucks included.

Ïwaça'i. In the Tupi language, it literally means “(fruit that) cries and expels water”. Deriving from the word used by the Tupi, formerly one of the most widespread indigenous peoples of Brazil, we now have the Brazilian-Portuguese term "açaí" (but pronounced "assaí", in English "ah-sigh-ee").

Juice. Along with the puree, it is also possible to buy açaí juice, either pure or mixed with other juices, purees or extracts of red fruits, pineapple, coconut, banana or apple, as well as almonds, guarana, yerba mate, chia seeds or ginger…

Kcal. 100 grams of fresh açaí pulp contains just over 45 kcal. But ... the same amount of dried pulp in powder form well exceeds 500 kcal!

Liquor. Açaí drupes are used to make a liquor. Macerated in cachaça and reduced to a puree, the infusion is then flavoured with ginger, orange peel and cane sugar. The resulting liquor has pronounced citrusy, spicy and chocolaty notes. A low alcohol percentage makes it the perfect aperitif.

Milk. Milkshake bars, smoothie spots, juice bars & the like offer açaí bowls in several versions: in most of these recipes, iced puree of açaí is blended with soy, rice, almond or coconut milk for added creaminess.

Nutrition facts. The açaí berry is rich in fibre, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins A, B, C and E, mineral salts (calcium, iron, phosphorus and potassium), essential unsaturated fatty acids (Omega 3, 6 and 9), antioxidants galore (to such a point, that it is one of the best sources available, with even up to 20 times more antioxidants than red grapes) … not bad, eh?

Oprah Winfrey. In one episode of the celebrated talk show, supported by famous heart surgeon Memhet Oz and by Nicholas Perricone, the tireless and plur-awarded nutritionist and skin specialist who is known for his innovative anti-ageing theories, the queen of American TV may have triggered US "açaí-mania". In fact, the demand for açaí berry-based products (purees, syrups, pills) has soared sky-high in record time.

Phytochemicals. Açaí oil contains high percentages of phenolic compounds. With its beautiful deep green colour, it has a mild flavour and may be used to dress salads and for cooking purposes. The cosmetics industry uses it extensively owing to its well known anti-ageing and elasticising properties.

Quality. Anyone who buys açaí puree on a regular basis knows that a quality product has to be dense and dark with a beautiful deep purple/chocolate brown colour. There is also a puree rating chart: popular/fino, medio and grosso. It all depends on the “dry matter” which is measured by getting the liquid part of the pulp to evaporate in order to establish the remaining percentage. Which means: from a meagre 7% (popular/fino) to an excellent 15% (grosso). Higher percentages do exist, and deserve the rating of “especial”, but they are expensive and difficult to come by.

Recipes. Some use açaí to make an exotic hot chocolate: it is prepared with cocoa, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, chilli pepper, honey or agave nectar. Others use it to give a new twist to cocktails, such as Caipirinha for instance, or energy-packed long drinks (here’s one to beat them all: açaí juice plus banana, pineapple, ginger and orange juice). Açaí pulp may also be cooked: with dried or fresh figs (plus ginger, honey, chocolate and vanilla) it makes a jam for serving hot or cold, possibly with toasted bread and cheese (vegan and not).

Superfruit. According to many nutritionists, açaí berries are the number one superfruit. They have numerous therapeutic properties: energy-boosting and fortifying, they support the immune system, facilitate sleep, and combat ageing and inflammations, as well as protecting the heart.

Tapioca. In the northern regions of Brazil, tapioca is added to açaí puree, with or without sugar. The original recipe however is said to be savoury rather than sweet: dried shrimps and guarana are sometimes added.

Usa. The USA is the world’s greatest importer of açaí. Frozen pulp, juices, smoothies, energy bars, cereals, pills and dried powders generate a turnover of more than $200 million.

Ver-o-Peso. Endless baskets brimming over with fresh açaí berries are transported to Ver-o-Peso, Belem, in the state of Pará, one of the largest open-air markets in South America. It all takes place by night, immediately after the fruit is picked because the natural properties of the berries remain active for not much more than 24 hours after harvesting.

Www. According to a report published online by Baum+Whiteman, one of the eleven food & beverage trends of 2016 is the açaí bowl, which is described as being "the next big hipster food".

Xxx. It would appear that the berries from the Brazilian palm tree also have remarkable aphrodisiacal powers. Brazilians swear that açaí berry puree with the addition of honey is a potent potion for enhancing sexual desire!

Youtube. You will find everything you wish to know and, above all, see regarding açaí on the popular web platform, including its miraculous fruit. All it takes is the click of a mouse and you will be spoilt for choice, with information, recipes and curious facts.

Zero point. Pure açaí pulp has a very low sugar content: the quantity of maltose, fructose and glucose ranges from a minimum of 0.1g to a maximum of 0.8g in 100g of product.

 

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