Acai Berry Tree

What You May not Know about the Acai Berry Tree

            Most healthful and beneficial foods can be grown by the average gardener, but when it comes to the acai berry tree, only select areas are able to harvest crops of this latest of the health food crazes.  This fact, in addition to its wide popularity, likely accounts for the high price the berries garner on the market. 

            People are continually on the lookout for a healthier lifestyle; most often, they seek a miracle food that will help them to lose weight and provide nutritional value at the same time.  When celebrities tout the products on television shows and talk shows, it instantly raises the interest level among the viewing audience.  The latest of these wonder foods is the acai berry.  A small, dark purple colored fruit, the acai berry contains more inedible pit than fruit.  The pulpy mass surrounding the pit has a flavor that is slightly reminiscent of a fruity chocolate.  There is no doubt that the berry has nutritional value, being higher in antioxidant properties than grapes.  Most medical professionals have found that, while it is valuable in nutritional benefits, it is no more beneficial than most other power foods such as fruits and vegetables.  Despite this, many people are still clamoring to obtain what they believe to be a “wonder food”; so much so that many want to grow their own acai berry tree.

            Northern South America is the natural habitat of the acai palm, where it grows in abundance.  Growing up to 80 feet tall, the tree has multiple light colored, slender trunks that spring up from a single seed root system.  Each of the trunks, or stems, is topped by sheaths of airy fronds that are medium green in color.  The stems are also the location for numerous offshoots that produce the fruity berry; the palm is well known for its proliferous seed production.  Large clusters of fruit form and ripen from an emerald green color to a rich, dark purple; generally maturing between July and December which are the driest seasons of the year.  In their natural settings, the acai berry tree is a favorite food source for many birds and small animals that assist in the propagation of the tree through their droppings.  This, in addition to the fact that the acai palm grows very quickly in the tropical climates where they are commonly found, ensures that the tree population remains high.

            The berry is not the only useful part of the acai palm.  The tree also serves as a delicious and valuable vegetable source, although it has almost no nutritional value whatsoever.  It is the heart of palm that is used; obtained by cutting the palm and removing the crown shaft, which is the uppermost part of the stem at the base of the fronds.  Many other types of palm trees are virtually ruined when the hearts of palm are harvested, as the tree must be felled to obtain them.  The numerous stems produced by the acai berry tree, however, enable more shoots to spring up in addition to the remaining stems even after one or two trunks have been felled for this use. 

            Unfortunately for many hopeful gardeners, the acai palm requires tropical, swampy conditions for optimal growth and berry production.  While they can be successfully grown in greenhouses, their height prohibits their containment indoors.  Since palms are more similar to grasses than to trees, their height cannot be effectively inhibited and still be productive.

            Instead of trying to grow your own acai berry tree, it will likely be more beneficial to concentrate gardening efforts on local fruits and vegetables.  The health benefits will be very similar but with much greater results.



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