Fruit, root, seeds.
People inhabiting the Amazon region extensively consume the acai palm heart as a vegetable, while a popular drink is prepared from the fruit. In addition, the extract from the fruit is also used as a dye or natural ink, while the wood from the acai palm tree is utilized in constructing houses having thatched roofs with palm leaves. In fact, in the Amazon region falling in Brazil, members of the Indian tribes virtually bring all parts of the acai palm tree into use in various ways. After felling the acai palm tree, these tribes consume the palm heart as a vegetable, prepare a popular drink with the fruit and utilize the mature bracts of the tree to thatch the roofs of their dwellings. Interestingly enough, next, they urinate on the remaining part of the chopped downed tree to draw a species of Rhynchophorus palm beetle to lay eggs within the felled acai palm tree. A number of weeks later on, members of these tribes come back to the residual felled tree to collect around three to four pounds of edible beetle larvae that are a vital resource of protein and fat in their food. Even the drink prepared from the juice extracted from acai berries is a hot favorite among all the communities and native tribes inhabiting the entire Amazon region. The usefulness of the acai palm, especially the utility of all parts of the tree, has encouraged people in this region to plant this wonderful tree virtually every where - in their gardens, in the periphery of their villages as well as in their backyards. Tribal families dwelling along the Amazon River as well as those inhabiting the forests often transport the acai berry and the palm hearts through the river to the nearby towns and cities, where they are sold as cash crops. Herbal medical practitioners in Brazil use the oil extracted from the acai palm fruit to cure diarrhea, while an infusion prepared with the roots of the tree is used to treat jaundice as well as foster blood creation in the body. A concoction prepared with the shredded acai palm fruit is widely used as a particular ablution for curing ulcers of the skin, while seeds of the fruit are pounded to prepare an infusion to alleviate fevers. In the Amazon region falling under Peru, herbal medical practitioners use roasted crushed seeds of the acai fruit to prepare an infusion to cure fever, while a decoction (brew) prepared with the roots of the acai tree is used to treat numerous ailments, including malaria, hepatitis, diabetes, hair loss, jaundice, hemorrhages, liver and kidney ailments. In addition, the Peruvian herbalists use the decoction to alleviate menstrual as well as muscle pains. Again people in Colombia, where the acai trees are raised by the side of the Pacific coast and are known as naidi, prepare a familiar and favorite drink with the juice extracted from the acai fruit. All said and done, there is little doubt that the local inhabitants of the Amazon region primarily use the acai palm to prepare a dense and deep purple juice collected by mashing the ripe fruits. In a number of regions in the Amazon, there are people who drink as much as two liters of the juice every day! In fact, the drink is frequently called a 'poor man's juice'. The juice extracted from the acai fruit is such a favorite among the locals in the entire Amazon region that you will often find small set ups called 'acailandia' in almost all villages and towns along the flow of the Amazon River where people prepare and sell the acai juice in little plastic pouches. Basically, the juice prepared from the acai fruit is still a part of the poor people's diet in the Amazon region, over the years it has become a favorite of people belonging to different social and economic categories all over the region and beyond. The juice has a metallic nutty taste with a smooth texture and appears oily. The process to make the popular dark purple drink with the acai fruits is not very cumbersome. Preparation of the liquid involves soaking the ripened acai fruits in water so that the thin outer covering of the fruits becomes soft. Next, the fruits are compressed and the outsized seeds are pulled out to harvest a dark purple liquid that has a unique or unparalleled taste. Many people inhabiting the Amazon region often add a starchy root vegetable called 'manioc' that has been dehydrated and pounded into a flour form with the liquid extracted from the acai pulp and consume the substance as a purple porridge. Alternately, people add sugar or sugar cane to sweeten the juice and drink it as a beverage. Simply speaking, the acai fruit forms the main diet for numerous poor families inhabiting the lower Amazon region. In fact, the porridge prepared with the juice extracted from the acai pulp and manioc flour does not possess a high nutritional value, but is certainly filling as it contains hefty amounts of starch and sugar. It is interesting to note that in a major port city called Bel�m, which is also considered to be the doorway to the Amazon region in Brazil, there exists a vast acai fruit market called Feira do Acai. This unique acai fruit market offers accommodation to approximately 70 to 120 wholesalers who sell more than 200,000 kg of acai fruit every day and that too during the lean season! Even the juice extracted from the acai fruit is extensively gulped as a staple food. Presently, a lot of research and development is being conducted in the Amazon region to promote and sustain the cultivation of the valuable acai palm trees. The activity is more in the Amazon region in Brazil, especially in the provinces like the Par� and Amap�. Different non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and universities in these states are encouraging the continued yield management of lesser inundated forests, usually seasonal, having a prevalence of acai palm trees. As there is a long-term profitable market for the acai fruit as well as the acai palm heat, it is now worth to observe if the natural rain forest lands are precisely earmarked for the profits to be made in the mass plantation form of acai farming. It may be noted that presently there is a proposal in Brazil that insists on planting as many as five million acai trees in the country's Amazon region during the subsequent 10 years. Consequently, it is also interesting to note if the demand for acai palm products is able to maintain a balance between rain forest preservation and the expansion of prospects to make money or business opportunities. Presently, a variety of acai products are being extensively marketed as well as available in the United States. These products are basically available in the natural products market and they range from acai liquid fruit drinks to acai freeze-dried or powdered juice extracts in the form of tablets and capsules. Even natural energy bars and specific snacks contain acai fruit extracts.
The liquid extracted from the acai fruit, which is simply known as acai or vinho de acai, is neither an alcoholic nor a fermented drink. Chemical analysis of the fruit liquid has shown that it contains one to four per cent protein, seven to 11 per cent fats, 25 per cent sugar, 0.05 per cent calcium, a mere 0.033 per cent of phosphorous and insignificant proportion of iron (0.0009 per cent). In addition to these, the acai fruit liquid also encloses trivial sulfur content and a dash of vitamin A, vitamin B1 and vitamin E. Depending on the method by which the acai fruit drink is prepared, it offers around 88 to 265 calories every 100 grams. It may be noted here that the acai fruit gets its dark purple color from the polyphenolic compounds present in it. Among the different chemical amalgams present in the acai fruit, a compound known as anthocyanin has drawn the attention of the scientific community. In fact, anthocyanins are a cluster of flavonoids extensively disseminated in plants and they provide various colors ranging from red to purple to different fruits, such as blackberries, grapes and raspberries. Foods and fruits rich in anthocyanin possess antioxidant features and are, hence, sold as products that are able to prevent cancerous growth as well as retard the aging process. Several studies have established that anthocyanin is also a new resource of natural food colorings and dyes. However, the anthocyanin present in the acai fruits is extremely volatile or unstable and disintegrates rapidly when exposed to heat, humidity and also owing to the enzyme actions of other chemicals in the fruit. This explains the reason why the acai fruits are exceedingly perishable and decay almost within 24 hours of being harvested. It is interesting to note that not only the color of the acai fruits transforms voluntarily, but even the flavor and anthocyanin content changes within a very short span even after being stored in refrigerators. It has been often found that the acai fruit perishes even within 12 hours of refrigeration. We have already discussed about the common vitamins and minerals enclosed in most of the acai fruits. In addition to those, the main acai herb also contains several chemicals traces of which may also be found in the fruits. The chemicals usually found in the main acai herb and sometimes also in the fruits comprise gallic acid, epicatechin, protocatechuic acid, p-hydroxy-benzoic acid, (+)-catechin, p-coumaric acid, ellagic acid, vanillic acid, ferulic acid, cyaniding and pelaronidin 3-glucoside.