What is Açai?
What is the big deal about açai?
Açai—pronounced ah-sah-yee—has been dubbed a superfood for its nutritive properties. It is native to South America and is the fruit of a particular species of palm tree, the Euterpe Oleracea, which is also known for producing another heavily debated ingredient, hearts of palm (unethically harvested hearts of palm can lead to deforestation in the world’s rainforests, but this is not a concern when it comes to the fruit of the tree). Açai fruit has long been referred to as a berry, due to its blueberryeske appearance, but it isn't actually a berry at all. It is a stone fruit, like peaches or cherries.
Let’s answer some of the other common questions surrounding this superfood.
Everything you need to know about the açai superfood:
What are the health benefits of açai?
This tiny stone fruit, packs in loads of antioxidants—research shows they are more powerful than any other fruit in this regard—even elderberries (which are also an incredible source of a wide array of antioxidants). Because they are so nutrient-rich, they are thought to help "defy oxidative stress", helping to decrease signs of aging, and warding off disease.
Where does açai come from?
As mentioned earlier in this article, the açai palm is found in South America throughout the rain forests of the Amazon, most specifically Brazil, its native ground. Today, most açai still produced in and exported from Brazil, though, as the popularity of the fruit rises, cultivation has increased in tropical climates and in greenhouses worldwide.
Finding fresh açai outside of Brazil is nearly impossible because the 'berries' begin to deteriorate quickly. Within a day of picking the fruit from the palm tree, they will often be rancid. For this reason, they are either freeze-dried and ground into a powder or frozen prior to exporting.
What does açai taste like?
It might seem tempting to try to compare the Brazilian superfruit to other, more familiar fruit flavors, but the notes couldn’t be further apart. This “berry” lacks any sort of sweetness and is more akin to that of bitter chocolate than any sort of fruit. It is tangy and earthy and can be somewhat abrasive on its own. Though, it does a beautiful job of enhancing other ingredients.
What are some uses for açai?
As with any ingredient, the uses for this superfood span as far as your imagination will take it. You are probably very familiar with the bowls and smoothies containing frozen açai berries and freeze-dried açai powders. As you can probably imagine, though, traditional uses for this fruit don’t include sweeteners, ice cream, yogurt, or granola. Instead, it is more of a savory addition to meals, as a puréed garnish, soup, or side dish. Still, the first several pages of online search results rarely deliver much more than the highly-popularized açai bowls. While we do agree that these bowls are incredibly flavor-filled and chock full of the benefits of this wonderful superfood, unless you are making your own, you risk the bad outweighing the good, simply because they often contain an excess of sugar and calories. We definitely recommend making yours from scratch, or setting your culinary imagination ablaze to incorporate this infamous drupe into your diet without the overly-processed additions. Try some of the popular recipes on our blog:
Acai Carolina Style Barbecue Sauce
Warm Strawberry, Apple, and Acai Crisp with Maple Nutmeg Cream
Cheesecake with freeze-dried açaí and hazelnuts
Stay tuned for other açai recipes from our blog. We have an açai bowl and an açai coated chicken on the docket for the near future.
If you are looking to add more of this superfood to your diet, look no further! We have high-quality, freeze-dried açai powder sourced direct from Brazil in our online store!