Superfood of the Amazon25 January 2016
While I was away on my honeymoon in Brazil I became curious about ‘Açai na tigela’, the now ubiquitous fruit slushie that is available in every juicery on every street corner in Rio De Janeiro and is ordered by the bowl in tourist hotspots with sliced banana on top and a little pot of granola on the side. It is sweet and grainy, so tastes as if it has sweetner added and is advertised as as an energising, antioxidant ‘meal in itself’ – so what is the true scoop on Açai?
We met with Carlo, a local of Rio state and expert on the Costa Verde jungle surrounding that carpets the land between Rio and São Paolo. He explained that the deforestation of the palm tree that gives the Açai berry by those who relied on the tree for their food and income was becoming a major problem. The tree was being cut down for its’ heart – palm hearts can be sold for food and medicine. This is the tree:
Carlos told us that research was done by a Brazilian food innovation agency who looked into the nutritional profile of the berry. The berry starts off green and if squeezed a sweet tasting gel is produced – good for long walks through the jungle!
The purple colour comes later, when the fruit is ripe. By then the seed inside has grown so that the berry is actually more of a seed with a very thin layer of skin around it:
The skin is pulled off and freeze-dried to become Açai powder which is blended with ice, guarana (the source of any energy claims of Açai na tigela), banana and other sweet or superfood additions. Sadly, Wikipedia seems to have quite a low opinion of the health benefits of consuming Açai but if the muscle-bound fitness bods on Copacabana Beach are anything to go by, all with Açai in hand, something is certainly working!
To try at home find the raw powder here at Kate Magic’s website Raw Living.