Bacuri (botanical name Platonia insignis) is the only plant belonging to the genus Platonia. This genus is a member of the plant family Clusiaceae. Bacuri has its origin in South America, especially in the clammy forests of Paraguay, Brazil, some regions of Colombia and the areas located in the northeast of Guyana; the Amazon rainforest in particular.
Earlier, there was some confusion regarding the nomenclature of this species, especially due to Moronobea esculenta. If that name had remained valid for bacuri and published for this plant, the current name of the species would be Platonia esculenta. Since Moronobea esculenta was not recognized as a formal name, the scientific name of this species continues to be Platonia insignis.
As mentioned above, the species Platonia insignis is also commonly referred to as bacuri. In fact, the fruit of this plant is believed to be among the most flavourful as well as healthiest amongst all fruits available. This species has its origin in South America and the fruit of this tree bears close resemblance to papaya both in shape and color. The inside of bacuri fruit is made up of a white fleshy tissue and only three to five seeds. The pulp of bacuri encloses the seeds and has a sweet and sour flavour. Moreover, the fruit is extremely scented and this is possibly the reason why humans became curious enough to try bacuri.
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The bacuri (Platonia insignis) tree is a deciduous tree found growing in dry places. This tree may grow up to a height of anything between 25 meters and 40 meters. The fruit of this tree has a thick skin that shields its white pulp. The color of bacuri also bears resemblance to that of papaya and it grows anything between 7 cm and 14 cm in length.
The mention of bacuri was first made in European literature way back in 1614. In the Amazon region, especially in the area extending from Maranhao in northern Brazil to Goias in Paraguay, bacuri is a common plant found growing in the wild. This tree is found growing abundantly in the State of Para, in the region of Marajo and Salgado in particular. The native region of bacuri extends from the border of the State of Para into Colombia as well as the north-eastern regions to Guyana's humid forests.
In its native territory, bacuri is rarely cultivated. However, when the native Indians clear the forest lands for making pastures or for agriculture, they always allow this tree to remain undisturbed for its tasty and healthy fruits. People in Marajo consider bacuri to be a weed because it propagates readily from the seeds of the ripened fruits fall on the ground. When the trees are felled, they give rise to numerous suckers from their roots. Interestingly enough, a settlement in Marapanim district is known as Bacurteua as it is home to numerous bacuri trees.
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People inhabiting the Amazon rainforest use the bacuri extensively and the fruit is sold in abundance in several supermarkets in different cities.
Fats contained by the bacuri fruit contain elevated amounts of tripalmitin, which makes them highly absorbable. In fact, tripalmitin helps the fat to go into the skin very quickly. At the same time, bacuri is rich in palmitoleic acid content than any other oils, making it a wonderful emollient. As a result, bacuri can also be employed in the form of an effective moisturizing agent.
Tripalmitin is a bioactive substance and currently is it used in medications to inhibit the dispersal of drugs into a living being. According to pharmacokinetics, tripalmitin helps to discharge the side effects of potent medications that are taken up by an organism.
Considering the fact that bacuri does not need a fertile soil rich in various nutrients and several additives, growing this species is quite easy. This tree can be propagated from seeds, by grafting or cuttings made from the roots and all these methods are more or less trouble-free. Nevertheless, you should give the plants proper care all through their growing period. Initially, the seeds or cutting need to be sown in soils rich in nutrient content and having a light texture. When propagating from seeds, the germination period usually takes anything between two and three months. After the seedling have grown reasonably and are safe for handling, they are shifted to nurseries for additional care. Usually, the young plants are shifted when they have grown up to a height of 20 cm. The plants continue to grow in the nurseries till they achieve a height of about 60 cm.
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Fortunately for cultivators, the bacuri plant is not very hard to please. It possesses the aptitude to survive in all types of conditions, favourable as well as hostile. Depending on this characteristic of the plant, bacuri has the potential to be the next important thing in the oil, agro forestry, forestry, nuts and fruits industries. Currently, scientists are engaged in extensive studies on ways to get the maximum possible from this wonderful fruit.
When completely ripened, the fruits fall from the tree. As a result, harvesting of bacuri comprises collecting the ripened fruits from the ground. As the fruit has a dense and hard-wearing rind, they are not bruised easily. This also has another advantage - the fruits can be transported to distant regions and still they will remain viable. The pulp of the fruit remains viable for consumption even five to 10 days after the ripened fruit drops to the ground.
Bacuri offers several health benefits and, hence, it is used for many different purposes. This fruit is used in the form of a flavoring agent in jellies, ice creams, jams, ice popsicles, pie fillings and many more. The white pulp of the ripened fruit can be consumed by itself too. This fruit is also used to make a butter, which is claimed to be highly effectual in curing problems related to the skin. Bacuri butter is useful for treating rashes, skin infections and other conditions associated with the skin. In addition, this butter is also employed in the form of an herbal remedy for ear pain as well as to treat insect and snake bites. Depending on these applications of bacuri, it is possible to promote the cultivation of this tree on a much larger level and harvest more of its fruits.
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There is a very good demand for the bacuri fruit in the markets in Belém, where people use this tasty fruit to prepare sweets, ice creams, juices, cakes and jams. The seeds of the fruit are, however, not used and, hence, discarded. The caboclos inhabiting Marajó island's central region usually have much problem in extracting the oil from bacuri seeds. This is mainly due to the fact that before the seeds are ready to yield the oil they need to be infused in water for more than a year.
Subsequently, the soaked bacuri seeds are boiled and the oil is removed from the boiling water's surface. The bacuri seed oil is very popular in Marajó Island where people use it as a medication to treat spider as well as snake bites. This oil also has a number of phyto-therapeutic applications and is believed by many to be an amazing remedy for arthritis and rheumatism.
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People in Guyana use the latex obtained from the bacuri tree bark for veterinary purposes. Bacuri seeds contain 6 percent to 11 percent of the oil, which is blended with sweet almond oil for treating herpes and eczema.
The seeds of bacuri trees have a white, sticky coating, which is flavourful. The pulp is bittersweet and loaded with nutrients like iron, phosphorus and vitamin C. People in Brazil mix the pulp with jelly, syrup, compote and even beverages. The oil-containing seeds of this tree are used for healing skin disorders.
The yellowish timber of bacuri tree is yellowish and is used in construction work.