Açai is a family favorite throughout the year, but is especially welcome during the scorchingly hot summer days. It has become quite popular over the last couple of years and has been credited with many health and anti-aging benefits. We value it as a high anti-oxidant fruit that is adding nutritional value to our diet and also tastes delicious. One of the main plant chemicals in açai getting all the attention is a compound called anthocyanin, which is a flavonoid lending a red to purple color to fruits like grapes, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and, of cource, açai berries.
Unlike locally grown berries, it is highly unlikely that you would find fresh açai berries in your local health food store. They don’t keep very well fresh, and have to be processed into juice, or frozen, very shortly after harvesting them to retain their nutritional value.
Açai palm trees (Euterpe oleracea and Euterpe badiocarpa) grow primarily in the tropical flood plains and riverbank regions of the Amazon basin in Brazil.
These trees grow anywhere from 50-80 feet tall and four or more trees are said to grow from a single seed. Açai berries are round and have a bright blue-purple color. They are about the size of a large blueberry, or a medium-sized grape, and each contains a large seed (about 0.25-0.40 inches in diameter).
In Brazil, the açai fruit is an especially important food for the Native population of the Brazilian Amazon. It makes up roughly 40% of their total food intake and is of great importance economically to the region. In the Northern State of Pará, Brazil, açai pulp is traditionally served in gourds, called “cuias” together with tapioca, and is either served sweet with honey, rapadura (sugar cane juice), or salty.
If you find yourself living in one of the tropical regions on our planet, you might find this website (begin-organic-gardening.com) to be very useful – they teach you how to grow your own açai palms, among other things. How about that!? Unfortunately, that would never work here in the high desert of the Southwest – not enough humidity throughout the year and waaaaaay too cold in the winter.
This brings us to our recipe for the day and our favorite açai product – Sambazon. You can find it in your local health food store in the frozen section.
We like Sambazon’s philosophy, in general, and for making this incredible food available to all of us, and, most importantly, for being a powerful ally for the rain forest and its native people. In giving the local population a fair trade wage in the harvesting of açai, alternatives are being offered to the cutting down of the vast Amazon forest. The growing and harvesting of açai has offered a healthy and economically viable alternative to the local people, and is helping to preserve the rain forest. The beautiful people at Sambazon have put together an interesting video about their company and products and you can watch their ‘you tube’ video here.
We were first introduced to the açai bowl out in San Diego, California, at a place called Swami’s in Encinitas (learn more about it under our Restaurant tab above). We never did get the recipe, but have perfected our own version of it over the years. It is a very simple recipe to make and will become a quick favorite amongst your family and friends. We have adapted this recipe from the one found in our book “A Celebration of Gluten Free Baking.”
This recipe will serve three people and you will need the following ingredients:
- 2 packets of Sambazon Açai Smoothie, unsweetened
- 3 cups frozen, organic mixed berries
- 3 organic bananas
- 1 Tbsp. raw honey
- 3/4 cup of organic fresh berries of your choice
- 3 Tbsp. unsweetened shredded coconut
- Bee pollen (optional), about 1/2 tsp. per person
- gluten free granola (we used Udi’s)
Are you familiar with açai? What is your favorite way of preparing it? Let us know by posting below.