The Açaí palm tree (Euterpe oleracea) is native to the Amazon region and proliferates through its water-meadows, lagoons and springs. The tree ranges from 20 to 25 m (60 to 75 feet) in height and bears berry fruits all year long. The berries have a purplish colour and have energetic and antioxidant properties. They are rich in vitamin B1, magnesium and iron, and are an important protein source for Amazon populations.
The local population have many uses for this palm tree: 1) The palm trunk provides an excellent “heart of palm” (palmito); 2) The fruit is used for juices, ice-cream, and to make wine; 3) The fruit seeds are used to make bio-jewellery (crafts); 4) The palm wood is used to make pickets and floors for houses by the river; 5) The leaves for thatching their houses; 6) Seed pellets are used in gardening; 7) The kernel’s oil is used in cooking and in household remedies.
Açaí collectors usually work in dry weather since they can’t climb a slippery tree. They climb it with the help of a peconha (a twisted ring made of fibers from the forest) which is fit around the feet to allow better support on the trunk.
Once a hidden secret of the Amazonian populations, açai is now used by the pharmaceutical, food & cosmetic industries all over the world.