Euterpe oleracea, Asai, Assai, Acai, Cabbage Palm, Pina Palm

Euterpe oleracea

Asai, Assai, Acai, Cabbage Palm, Pina Palm
Family: Arecaceae / Palmae
Origin: Brazil
USDA Zone: 10-11?
USDA Plant Hardiness MapLarge shrub 5-10 ft tallSemi-shadeFull sunRegular waterEdible plantPalm or palm-like plantEthnomedical plant.
Plants marked as ethnomedical and/or described as medicinal, are not offered as medicine but rather as ornamentals or plant collectibles.
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Assai is one of the most valuable palms, sometimes called "new mysterious power fruit of the Amazon". It is famous for its anti-oxidant qualities of the fruit juice and as a host of many health benefits - from weight loss, to increased energy and lower cholesterol. The Assai is very interesting fruit that is highly popular as a low-cost beverage in Brazil, where it grows. In the U.S. it becomes the new high-dollar "rich man's" health drink.

This majestic palm is very ornamental, with multiple branches. It lives in seasonally flooded habitats and along water margins. It flowers throughout the year and the harvesting season is usually from July to December. The plant is a fast grower with multiple stems: the average mature wild tree has 4-8 well-developed stems from a single seed and root system; however, a single seed can grow a plant providing up to 25 shoots growing individually. It has pinnate leaves that start from a prominent crownshaft that is reddish color. It has adapted to live in periodically waterlogged and flooded soils by developing special root structures called pneumatophores. It produces both female and male flowers which are quite small and are brown to purple in color. The plant will take full sun as it matures, it also likes high humidity.

Acai produces an edible fruit which grows in bunches. The fruit is round, 1-2 cm in diameter, with a single large seed inside surrounded by stringy fibrous sheaths and a thin oily coating. It begins as a green color and ripens to a dark purple. Each tree stem usually produces four to eight bunches of fruit throughout the year but ripe fruits are the heaviest in the dry season.

The fruit is highly valued by the Amazonense for use in wine or as a juice, and it is an important and popular dietary complement. The dark purple juice is extracted from the small round fruit. The seeds are soaked in water to soften the thin outer shell. The seeds are then squeezed and strained to produce a tasty, dense purple liquid of incomparable flavor. This liquid is served ice cold with sugar and tapioca flour. Some people like it without sugar. It is a nourishing and refreshing treat that is also used to produce ice cream, liquor, mousses and sweets in general. Today, modern science has validated the absolutely remarkable wellness benefits of the Assai fruit. Acai is a rich source of anthocyanins and other phenolics and phyto-nutrients. Acai berries are amongst the most nutritious foods of the Amazon, rich in B vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. The berry is known to harness the following properties:

antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-Inflammatory, antimutagenic, cardiovascular system. It is also an excellent source of dietary fiber which promotes a healthy digestive system. Research studies suggest soluble fibers may help lower blood cholesterol. The insoluble fiber may help reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancers. Assai contains an amazingly high concentration level of Antioxidants which contribute to combat premature aging. Studies show that Açai provides significantly more antioxidants than such well-respected foods as blueberries, oranges and even red wine. The antioxidant concentration in the Assai fruit is five times higher than that of Gingko Biloba, the popular "brain boosting" herbal supplement that is renowned for its antioxidant properties. Assai is considered to have the best nutritional value of any fruit on earth.

This palm is also the world's main source of palm hearts: the proliferation of the tree is extraordinary, especially considering its intensive extraction for the delicious heart-of-palm.

Close related species, Euterpe edulis, is a single trunk tree.

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