Fruits Of The Amazon Rainforest
Many of the fruits we enjoy in the Western world have their roots in the Amazon rainforest. Mangoes, oranges, lemons, and many more all grow here, but we only consume a tiny proportion of the 3,000 or so known to the people of these areas. Some of these more exotic and unknown fruits contain a huge number of vitamins and minerals, and if you take an Amazon river cruise, you may even get to try some of them for yourself.
Camu camu, also known as rumberry, grows in the Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon on a bushy riverside tree. While the fruit itself is rather sour, it is used in many ways, and served often as ice cream and in juice form. The fruit harvests during the rainy season so is collected by canoe. It has a very high level of vitamin C, between 2 – 3% of its fresh weight, and is extremely popular throughout Iquitos and the Amazonas.
Maracuya is known to us as passion fruit, but in the jungle, and throughout much of South America, it is much more widely consumed. Grown on vines, the fruit is yellow to dark brown with a juicy seed-filled interior. Fresh passion fruit contains provitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin C, dietary fiber, and iron. Maracuya juice is a source of potassium, which suggests it could have good properties for lowering blood pressure. Preliminary research has also indicated that consuming passion fruit peel may alleviate asthma symptoms.
Native to Central and South America, this small, round fruit is found on palms that grow as tall as 25 meters, and produce 40 to 50 pounds of the berries per year. Acai has recently started to become extremely popular internationally owing to its supposed antioxidant qualities, although so far there have been no scientifically-controlled studies that have confirmed any of these health benefits. In a study of three traditional caboclo populations in the Brazilian Amazon, the acai palm was described as their most important plant species because the fruit makes up around 42% of their total food intake by weight.
The bacaba palm, also known as kumbu, actually produces more fruits than any other palm in South America, usually around 2,500 per bunch! They have a dark red to purple colored shell and are often cooked to make a juice. Remains of the fruit are fed to livestock such as pigs, and the leaves are also used in the construction of houses, as are the the tree trunks.
Cupuazu is related to cacao, and is widely cultivated in Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Bolivia. They have a thick, brown, fuzzy exocarp and weigh anywhere between 1 and 2 kg. The pulp of the fruit has been described as tasting as a mixture of chocolate and pineapple, and is often used in desserts, whereas the juice is often compared to that of a pear.
Aguaje, or the moriche palm fruit, has a high vitamin C content and is often used to make juice, jam, and even fermented into a fruit wine. It is found in tropical wet areas of South America. Its oil contains high concentrations oleic acid, tocopherols, carotenoids and vitamin A, and is often used to treat injuries such as burns because of its soothing qualities.
Cocona is a red, yellow, or orange edible berry from the cocona plant, a small shrub with sturdy branches and huge, hairy leaves. Coconas have a similar appearance to tomatoes, and taste somewhere in between a tomato and a lemon. They are native to the Andean regions of South America.
This list represents just a small selection of fruits available in the Amazonas. So when you finally make that trip, try to venture to the local market and see what they have to offer, and take advantage of the vast array of jungle delights you will find. The chances are it will be far different to what you find in your local supermarket!