This is the history of Açaí.
The story of the acai berry begins deep inside the dense tropical rainforests in the northern regions of Brazil. The native people of the forest have been unlocking the secrets of their land over many generations, and they thrived off the natural wonders of their land.
They discovered the acai berry, which they called the “crying fruit”. It all begins with a legend of a tribal chief who instituted a law amongst his people to prevent starvation on the heels of their growing population amidst a diminishing food supply. This law ordered the killing of newborns to preserve the food source and ensure the living tribe would be fed. One day the daughter of the tribe chief became pregnant. Showing no favoritism, the chief had his grandchild sacrificed. Carrying a heavy burden and a heart filled with grief, the chief’s daughter became a recluse staying in her dwelling days on end. Suddenly one day she was awakened at the sound of her crying baby deep in the forest. She left to search for the crying child. She emerged to find an unusual palm tree filled with fruit and an apparition of her child beside the tree. She tried to embrace her child, and the image disappeared. Tired and fatigued, she took refuge in the tree amongst the fruit, where she passed away. The tribal chief was distraught to find his daughter’s lifeless body in this tree full of life-giving fruit, and recognized that this newly discovered fruit could feed the tribe. The chief decided to revoke the law, and in the name of his daughter, legend has it that he named the tree after her by reversing the letters of her name: Iaçá. The tribe prospered once gain. Today, that population is the city if Belém, in the state of Pará, Brazil and the history of acai remains rooted there.
Growing abundantly throughout the Amazon region, the acai palm tree has been providing food for hundreds of years to the indigenous people of Brazil. Modern day Brazilians have continued to consume this vitalizing berry, and continue to live active, healthy lifestyles.
The acai fruit began to grow in popularity throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s among many of Brazil’s athletes. The dark round acai berry resembles a grape and can be blended into smoothies, dried and put into various food products (such as granola bars), or simply eaten directly. This versatility made the fruit easy to consume for those that are on the go.
Researchers began to discover that this little berry had a big nutritional impact on the human body by providing vitamins, proteins, antioxidants, and minerals. Because of its high concentration of antioxidants, the acai berry has recently been named a leading superfood of the world.
The Acai tree also grows in Panama and Trinidad where the powerful little fruit grows in bunches (similar to bananas), and each tree can grow up to eight bunches. Because if its popularity and health benefits, growers have begun to produce acai in the United States (mostly in Florida). We have yet to find out how well the acai tree will do in the local climates in the US. US production should help bring the cost down, since acai does not transport very well. But don’t get your hopes up just yet, as the acai tree can require 12 years of maturity before it bears fruit.
Incidentally, the acai craze is having a positive effect on Brazil’s rainforest. Deforestation has been a growing problem in the Amazon – in spite of the attempts by the Brazilian government to control it. Now that acai has become so popular worldwide, the local farmers are rushing to plant acai and keep up with the demand. Additionally, more of the forest is being designated for acai production, further boosting the local economy.
Acai is going mainstream.