Açaí - the Queen of berries
“Akai”, “Assai” or “Azai”? There are many different ways of pronouncing the super-berry. But how do you say it right? Where does the superfood grow? And what does it taste like? From appearance to preparation - we explain everything you need to know about Açaí in this blogpost.
What does the Açaí-berry look like?
Small, round and deep purple to black - Açaí reminds us in its optical appearance of a mixture of blueberries and black grapes. The exotic superfood from the Amazon region is not a typical berry and differs from strawberries, blueberries & Co. in many ways: Açaí berries are 1-2 centimeters big and consist of 90% of a pit. The pit is not edible, therefore only the skin can be consumed. This is a very unique feature which makes the Açaí precious and valuable.
Also, the Brasilian superberry acai changes its colour: the unripe fruit has a bright red colour and is luminous at first. The more it ripens, the darker the berry gets until it reaches the typical deep purple to black colour.
Where does Açaí grow and how is it harvested?
The Açaí berry is really exotic: it grows on the cabbage palm in the Amazon region. Brazil is the most important cultivation area, as 90% of the worlds Açaí berries are being harvested there. Brazilians also call the cabbage palm açaizeiro, hence the superfood’s name. The title “queen of berries”, as the Açaí berry is often called, is not a coincidence: Açaí grows on the fruit umbels of the cabbage palm, which are in 25 meters of height at the crown of the palm. A single umble carries approximately 1,000 berries and weights up to 5 kilograms. This doesn’t sound much at first, but with the stems of the cabbage palm only reaching a maximum diameter of 20 centimeters, they are loaded with a relatively heavy weight. To harvest the fruits the farmers climb up the palm tree and pick the berries by hand.
Açaí has to be processed directly after the harvest. The berries would otherwise fall apart within a few hours and lose their nutrients. This is also the reason why the super-berries are solely found as frozen Açaí puree, as Açaí powder or dried fruit outside of South America.
What does Açaí taste like and how do you eat it?
The Brazilian superfood is mainly consumed as Açaí-bowls in Europe. The Açaí puree or powder is mixed with bananas or other fruits and served with different toppings. The Açaí percentage is often quite low, which is why the actual flavour of the berry gets lost most of the time. Many associate Açaí with a sweet and fruity taste. In reality however, Açaí tastes very mild and has an earthy flavour similar to beetroot. This is also the reason why you can combine the superberry with sweet flavors as well as savory ones.
In Brazil, Açaí is one of the most important staple foods and accounts up to 60% of the diet in some regions. The berry is mainly mixed into a puree with yuca flour (finely ground manioc-root) and served hot or cold with seasoned fish or meat dishes. Brazilians also drink Açaí as juice. As a producer for cold pressed juices and with our passion for the special characteristics of the Açaí berry, we developed the organic shot Anda Açaí together with the well known Fitness-Expert Fernanda Brandao.
How do you pronounce “Açaí” and what does it mean?
“Azai”, “Akai”, “Assai”, “Aschai” - the berrie’s name is portuguese and is pronounced in many different ways in Europe. But how do you pronounce it properly? In its home country Brazil, the pronunciation’s emphasis of Açaí lies on the “i” at the end. The correct pronunciation is therefore „assa-i”[aˌsaˈi]. The Tupi - an ethnic population in Brazil - call the superberry iwasai, which means (as much as) “the crying fruit”.
The Brazilians derive this name from a tragic legend according to which the members of an Indian tribe suffered from famine. To end the hunger phase, all the newborns were sacrificed - also the child of the chief’s daughter Íaça. After the loss of her child, Íaça fell into deep sorrow and imagined hearing her newborn cry. She walked into the rainforest searching for her child. Íaça was found by members of her tribe the next day, lying dead under a palm tree. In spite of the mourning over the loss of Íaça, the day had a special meaning for the natives: The palm tree, under which the chief’s daughter was found, beared many edible berries and the famine was over. Because they were able to find the cabbage palm and the superfood because of the cries of Íaça’s child, the berries were called “the crying fruit”. But why exactly Açai? It descends from the chief’s daughters name, because Íaça read backwards means/is Açaí.
Everyone is crazy about Açaí and we understand why! The small berry is still harvested by hand in its home country Brazil. This is why Açaí is of very high quality which you can taste! You also want to enjoy the superberry? Try our new organic shot Anda Açaí, which we developed with Fernanda Brandao.