The açai palm, (known by the people as “ica-cai”, which means “fruit that cries”) Euterpe oleracea is a species of palm tree in the genus Euterpe cultivated for their fruit and superior hearts of palm. The history of the Acai tree is rooted deep into the Amazon culture. Indeed, it has been used for thousands of years. It has only been introduced in America in the 1990s. The tribes in the Amazon first used the berry to help prevent health problems and deficiencies, due to its highly nutritious and antioxidant properties. It usually grows in the wild Amazonian jungles in Brazil, where it is harvested by natives who have been reaping its health benefits for generations now. Acai also contains plant sterols, fiber, amino acids, various vitamins and minerals, and polyphenols. Studies show that acai berries have a higher antioxidant capacity than do other berries, such blackberries, and blueberries. According to the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) values, which is a measure of antioxidant power developed by the National Institute on Aging in the National Institutes of Health, acai fruit pulp/skin powder has the highest ORAC value (102,700) of any fruit or vegetable.
Acai palms are tall, slender palms growing to 15-30 meters, with pinnate leaves up to 3 meters long. These palms produces small purple flowers that grow in clusters. Male and female flowers are born on the same inflorescence. Flowers are followed by green fruits that grow in bunches. It takes Acai Palm Tree 4-5 years before producing fruit. The fruit, a small, round, black-purple drupe is about 1 inch in circumference, similar in appearance but smaller than a grape and with less pulp, is produced in branched panicles of 500 to 900 fruits. Acai juice is said to have between 10 and 30 times more antioxidants than grapes, pomegranates, and even blueberries. Because of the extensive vitamins, amino acids, minerals, Omega acids, and other properties, the Acai very is said to be one of the most nutritionally dense berries on the planet.
It’s known the fresh Acai berry perishes inside a day or so from being picked, making fresh acai hard to transport over any great distances. This is going to be the reason why you don’t see fresh acai stocked on the shelf right next to the blue berries. It is usually mixed with energy drinks, ice cream, and even energy bars. Coca-Cola has entered into a distribution agreement with Los Angeles-based Bossa Nova brand acai juices, and Anheuser-Busch adds the fruit to its new energy drink, 180 Blue. Although acai berries have been touted as a product helpful in weight loss, no studies have currently been done showing that they actually work in such a manner. Certainly a diet rich in antioxidants and healthful fruits along with exercise has been shown effective in weight management. The Acai berry is delicate and perishable. It actually comes to the United States by way of a puree that is typically made into a smoothie or juice cocktail. In addition to enjoying Acai as a smoothie, it also packs a punch as a great way to start your day or even as a pick-me-up in the afternoon when it is served in a bowl and topped with granola and sliced banana.
Makes 1 smoothie
1/2 cup frozen mixed berries
1/4 cup Bossa Nova Acai juice with blueberry
1/2 banana, sliced
1 teaspoon flax meal (optional)
1/2 teaspoon agave or to taste
Add all ingredients to a blender and mix until smooth.
4 1/2 cups Acai berries
½ to 1 cup of water
¼ cup honey, or sugar
Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor, starting with 1/2 cup of water and adding more if needed. Puree the Acais until smooth. Pour into molds , leaving a 1-inch space at the top. Freeze for at least 6 hours. To release, run Popsicle molds under cool water for a few seconds, then gently pull.