- Brazilian Cocoa
- Cupu Assu
- Large-Flowered Cocoa
Cupuacu (botanical name Theobroma grandiflorum) is found in the rainforest of South America. This tree is a member of the cocoa family and it grows up to a height of anything between 12 to 20 meters forming a canopy. Cupuacu is a fruit-bearing tree that has been a major source of food for the native inhabiting the rainforests for several centuries. The fruit of this tree is akin to a large melon with a creamy and exotic pulp in its center.
The size of the cupuacu fruits is roughly that of a medium-sized watermelon and they ripen between January and April, which is the rainy season in the rainforest of South America. The natives collect these fruits, split them open and use the pulp to make juice, jam, smoothies, ice cream, tarts and several other foods. In several bigger South African cities, including capital Rio, these are regarded as delicacies and are available in a variety of shops.
Cupuacu has been traditionally cultivated by the indigenous people who have used it for several centuries. From the nutritional point of view, cupuacu is a very compact as well as filling fruit. The seeds of the fruit (locally called ibeansi) were chewed by people to treat abdominal pains, while the shamans would bless the juice of the fruit and give it to newlywed women wanting children, pregnant women and others to cure a variety of maladies.
The pulp of cupuacu is white and has a unique fragrance, which is described by many as a blend of pineapple and chocolate. People in the region as well as elsewhere often use the pulp of the fruit in juices, sweets and desserts. Many promote cupuacu as a potential super fruit flavour. There are several commercial productions of this fruit and it includes drinks, food supplements, sweets, smoothies and even pills. The pulp of cupuacu, which is very hydrating like cocoa butter, also has many uses. For instance, it is used in cosmetic products like baby lotions.
Cupuacu offers us numerous health benefits, mainly kindling the
immune system. At the same time, it endorses the ability of the body to combat various diseases. The effect of cupuacu is similar to that of caffeine. However, this fruit does not have any caffeine content. Among the various species of cocoa plants, only cupuacu does not contain caffeine. Nevertheless, it has a caffeine effect and makes one feel energetic.
Nearly all the benefits offered by cupuacu are synergistic or collaborative. For example, the ability of cupuacu to boost the energy levels is mainly attributed to enhance the body’s immune system as well as lower the blood pressure. This is because of the fact that this fruit contains fast-acting nutrients as well as various vitamins. However, different from caffeine and most of the energy drinks available in the market, cupuacu does not have any downing effect. Moreover, one does not feel tired after consuming this fruit.
There are several other benefits of consuming this fruit, as it contains an assortment and high concentration of various antioxidants. The effects of these antioxidants on the body are vast and also long-lasting. Most importantly, these antioxidants work to counteract the harmful free radicals in our body tissues. It is worth mentioning here that this fruit helps to enhance blood circulation and lowers the blood pressure, which, in turn, facilitates the elimination of free radicals from the body.
Several of the antioxidants present in cupuacu are effective in lowering cholesterol levels in the body, improving the functioning of the brain and offer other health benefits. This fruit contains many essential minerals and vitamins, which act to boost the gastro-intestinal (GI) system. This explains why the natives consume cupuacu for treating their gastro-intestinal problems. In addition, this fruit is also good for the health of our cardio-vascular system.
Since cupuacu contains high concentration of various antioxidants, people in South America consider this fruit to be a complete breakfast. This fruit does not contain any caffeine and, hence, it possesses the ability to keep the body moisturized and hydrated all the time. In addition, this fruit contains lots of vitamins, including vitamin A, and vitamin B ( vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and vitamin B3). Moreover, cupuacu fruit contains plenty of amino acids, calcium, and selenium which make it a wonderful food for the bones, tendons, as well as the ligaments.
Inhabitants of South America, especially ladies in Brazil use cupuacu to cure stomach related problems and also aid during their labor pains. This fruit has several therapeutic properties that aid the defence mechanisms of the body to remain strong and healthy.
Cupuacu is one of the very few fruits that also contain phytonutrient polyphenols. This natural compound is exceptionally beneficial for treating respiratory ailments. In fact, this fruit works in the form of an all-natural medication for erection dysfunction. At the same time, it is helpful in neutralizing free radicals, which are responsible for cancers and several other life-threatening conditions.
This fruit is effective in sustaining the normal levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream and, at the same time, it prevents incidences of cardio-vascular diseases. If your children are too picky and choosy about food, cupuacu may prove to be the ideal solution as you can give it to them in various forms – ice cream, juice, yogurt and even powder. It is worth mentioning here that consuming this fruit in any form will help the children to improve their memory power.
Cupuacu is a wonderful fruit for ladies as it has the ability to enhance their skin’s health and also cure acne breakouts. In addition to shielding the heart, it also protects the walls of the arteries from various types of damages, which may eventually result in heart diseases.
Combining cupuacu with acai fruit makes it an energy power house. In other words, this combination offers potent energy in motion. Even the seeds of this fruit possess therapeutic properties as they help to provide relief from pain in different body parts. People who choose to take natural remedies for pain relief can chew the seeds of cupuacu slowly.
Among other health benefits offered by cupuacu, this fruit also facilitates weight loss. Aside from minerals and vitamins, this fruit also encloses soluble fiber which together help in weight loss. Consumption of cupuacu has a soothing effect. This fruit effectively combats bronchitis and infections of the kidneys. In addition, cupuacu fruit also helps to treat diabetes and problems related to cataract.
Butter and oil extracted from cupuacu fruit are used for moisturizing the skin and hair. Aside from repairing the moisture barrier of your skin, cupuacu butter also helps to enhance the firmness and elasticity of the skin and sustain the skin’s smoothness and make it look youthful. It also keeps the skin hydrated and reduces the manifestation of the imperfections. Cupuacu oil and butter possess the ability to heal sunburned and cracked skin too.
Cupuacu has a low melting point which helps the butter and oil extracted from this fruit to be taken up by the skin easily and very quickly. At the same time, it does not leave behind any heavy or greasy residue.
In addition, cupuacu is often used as a substitute for shea butter to treat brittle and/or dry hair. It also helps to enhance the shine and softness of hair, besides keeping it hydrated. After coloring, this is an excellent hair treatment as it has the potential to reduce hair damage. Not only can cupuacu butter and oil serve in the form of a sealant, but they can also restore moisture in the hair strands, as they can easily absorb water.
Cupuacu, including its seeds, has numerous culinary uses. In present times, the pulp of cupuacu is often utilized to make juice, smoothies, ice cream, jellies, mousse, and chocolates known as “cupulate” and even liquor.
The seeds of this fruit are used to make “cupualte”, whose properties are similar to that of chocolate, but the nutritional value of the product is much higher compared to chocolates. Moreover, it is healthier too. The fruit pulp is delicious and it is either consumed raw or used to prepare an assortment of beverages, ice cream, juices, smoothes, sweets, sorbet, yoghurt, preserves, puddings, jams, jellies and various types of desserts.
Cupuacu seeds contain elevated amounts of fat and, hence, they provide excellent cupuacu butter. In addition, they can be used to make chocolates and foodstuffs similar to chocolates. In several everyday foods, cupuacu can substitute for cocoa, especially for children. Chocolate milk is one such example.
Habitat and cultivation
In its wild habitat, cupuacu trees grow on fertile and well-drained soils in the high primary forests. These trees are commonly found on the banks of rivers Tocantis, Tapajos, Guama and Xingu in the south of Para state. They are also found growing naturally on the banks of Pindare and Turiacu rivers in Maranhao state. To grow well, these trees need an average annual temperature between 21°C and 27°C with an average annual rainfall of anything between 1900 mm and 3000 mm. An average annual relative humidity should be anything between 77 percent and 88 percent is ideal for their optimal growth. In Brazil and eastern Amazonia, people grow cupuacu trees in nurseries and small domestic gardens.
Propagation from seeds
Usually, cupuacu plants are propagated from the seeds. However, it can also be propagated from grafts and cuttings, such as the Mamau variety of cupuacu. Like in the case of all other trees belonging to the Theobroma species, cupuacu seeds are vulnerable to aridness and, hence, they need to be sown immediately after the flesh of the fruit is removed. Before sowing cupuacu seeds, it is important to wash them properly.
It takes about 10 days for the cupuacu seeds to germinate. After the seedlings have attained a height of 10 cm, they are transplanted into black polythene bags measuring 40 cm X 30 cm and containing a rich substrate comprising fertilizer and organic manure. In the nursery, the plants are kept in partial shade (about 50 percent) till they attain the height of 50 cm. After this, they are directly sown in their permanent place of growth in the gardens.
To propagate cupuacu by cutting, the process that needs to be followed is similar to that of cocoa propagation. Usually, young terminal branches of the trees having roughly five leaves are used for this purpose. After cutting down the leaves through their middle, you need to apply a growth stimulant at the base of the cuttings. After this, the cuttings are placed inside a propagator under a roof where there is 75 percent shade. The humidity at the place needs to be at saturation level. Once the cuttings have grown roots, they are picked tenderly and transplanted into black polythene bags, as in the case of propagating the plants from seeds. Subsequently, the polythene bags are placed in a nursery under shade till the time they have grown sufficiently and are ready to be planted in their permanent positions in the gardens.
Cupuacu can also be propagated by grafting. For this you need to obtain stocks either from the cupuacu seeds or from any other Theobroma species, for instance T. obovatum. These will produce dwarf cupuacu plants.
Cupuacu fruit encloses several vital nutrients, especially phytonutrient polyphenols called theograndins. At the same time, this fruit contains elevated amounts of amino acids, fatty acids and vitamins B1, B2 and B3. In addition, cupuacu contains no less than nine antioxidants, which include vitamin A and vitamin C. As this tree belongs to the cocoa family, its fruits are also rich in flavonoid content.
Cupuacu offers numerous health benefits, which are mainly attributed to the fruits highly potent antioxidants, phytonutrient polyphenols, vitamins, essential nutrients and other substances.
These fruits of the rainforest contain several other nutrients too that are essential for our health. Some of these nutrients include essential minerals like calcium and selenium.