Açaí is a small purple palm fruit that grows atop tall slender palm trees in the Amazon Rainforest. Açaí looks very similar in color, size, and shape to blueberries, however, 90% of the açaí berry is seed. The edible portion is the thin skin and pulp surrounding the seed. Because of this unique anatomy, the edible portion of the fruit is essentially concentrated purple pigments. Açaí is naturally very low in sugar and like cocoa, when it is sweetened lightly it brings out the amazing taste: a vibrant blend of rich berries with a hint of chocolate.
The Açaí palm is one of the few palm trees that is a renewable resource; it has multi-stems coming from the same root system called clumps. The Açaí palm tree belongs to the Arecaceae Family and is a bountiful native forest species that grows wild in the Amazon Estuary’s “Varzea” ecosystem, or Flooded Forest region. Although stems of the palm are fallen to harvest the palm hearts, the entire palm is not killed as a new stem is generated from the clump. This biological characteristic makes the Açaí palm an undeniably ideal species for the sustainable harvest of its fruits. The Açaí palm plays an important role for riverside communities in terms of their subsistence, due to its multiplicity of uses such as food, construction materials, animal feed and plant fertilizer.
Açaí has been a dietary stable of the local Amazonian people for centuries, and still to this day, açaí is harvested the same way. Harvesters climb the 60 to 80 ft. tall palm trees, cut the açaí berry branches and slide down the slinder and smooth palm trucks back to the ground.
Lacking sugar or acid, which protects most fruits, this açaí must be picked, processed into a pulp, flash pasteurized for food safety, and frozen quickly prior to transport out of the Amazon. If left unprocessed, açaí will oxidize, turn from purple to brown, and lose its powerful nutrients.
Today, açaí is made into everything from pure smoothie packs to jelly bellys. The best place to find açaí is on the shelf of your local supermarket. Like all food, look for organic options first. Fresh juices and frozen products are more nutritionally potent than shelf stable juices. Freeze dried açaí supplements are a good alternative as well, just make sure they are 100% açaí without additives. A good rule of thumb: açaí is naturally dark purple, so if what you are eating or drinking isn’t dark purple, it’s not pure, wholesome açaí.
To date, Sambazon is the largest vertically integrated supplier of açaí in the world and the only source of certified Organic and Fair Trade açaí. They are fully sustainable and Sambazon açaí products can be found at your local grocery store.
As açaí soared in popularity in the U.S., many online companies preyed on consumers with deceptive marketing that touts açaí as a weight loss drug or supplement. Many scams ask consumers for credit cards for “free trials” of açaí products – which are most often low concentrations of açaí– and then charge consumers exorbitant reoccurring fees. Be wary of online offers and try to find açaí products at your local grocery store.