The Acai palm, lat. Euterpe oleracea or also called cabbage palm, belongs to the family Arecaceae (palm family). It can also be counted among the tripus Euterpeae, which occupies an intermediate position between subfamily and genus. The exact number of associated species varies between 8 and 30 depending on the literature. Among the Indians, the name "ica-cai" meant "the fruit that screams".
The plant is a multi-stemmed, monoecious palm with trunks up to 25 meters high, which is particularly common in the eastern Amazon. The trunk is smooth, slender, erect, gray and about 12-18 cm in diameter. The crown consists of 9-15 leaves, each reaching a total length of 2-3.5 meters.
It prefers wet floodplain or marsh soils and is often found along rivers. The plant can take advantage of greater light intensity here due to limited vegetation cover.
The exact origin of the plant is not clear. It is native to South America and grows mainly in Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia.
The acai palm begins fruit production only after three years of growth. The fruits form green clusters when immature and change color to a dark red or black during the -ripening process. The ripe drupes are then about the size of a grape. (1-2 cm) in diameter with a weight of 0.8-2.3g). The hard exocarp is thin and smooth to very finely textured. The underlying mesocarp is only 1-2mm thick and together with the exocarp occupies about 5-20% of the fruit. The largest portion is taken up by the 7-10mm round seed kernel.
Depending on the species and location, the ripe fruit can have different colors: in this case, the content of anthocyanins, a chemical agent, is responsible for green or black color. Farmers begin the harvest by visually inspecting the color of the fruit. The darker the fruit, the higher the desired anthocyanin content, which is why the timing of the harvest is important for the quality of the oil. However, if the fruit remains on the tree too long, microbial decay can occur.
The acai palm produces its fruit between February-June and August-December. Due to less rainfall, the yield and quality of the fruit is more consistent and better in the second harvest season. To harvest, an employee climbs into the crown of the palm and uses a machete to cut off the ripe clusters of fruit. These are then roped down so as not to damage the fruit. At ground level, the berries are separated from the clusters with stroking motions and loaded into baskets. One fruit cluster bears up to 900 fruits and, depending on the location, a harvest of 7-9.3 kg per trunk can be expected.
The fruits are soaked in an aqueous bath for a short time and then dried. This treatment process softens the exo-mesocarp and makes it easier to remove. the remaining kernel is now ground and pressed directly. Approximately 70 kg of starting material is required for one liter of acai oil. Depending on the area of application, a final filtering or preparation of the oils can still take place.
Acai oil has a dark green or green color with a characteristic mild aroma.
Acai fruits are called superfoods. Due to a high content of fiber and antioxidants, the worldwide demand for juices, dried berries and oil is increasing. The fruits themselves have a high content of polyphenols, especially anthocyanins and flavonoids. These substances can serve as natural free radical scavengers in organisms, which brings the association to the healthy effect of berries.
The oil has a high content of oleic acid (about 50%) and palmitic acid (about 30%). Further, the proportion of monounsaturated fatty acids predominates. Other ingredients are: Vanillic, p-hydroxybenzoic, protocatechus and syringic acids. Many of these natural substances are sensitive to heat and should not be stored for too long, otherwise they may decompose.
The substances are associated with healthy eating and disease reduction. Experiments with animals showed a reduction in certain blood lipid levels when taken orally. However, it is not recommended to take it for too long, because other blood lipid values may increase. However, further experiments need to be conducted to substantiate these studies.
The majority of acai oil is consumed in the cosmetics industry: there it is processed into soaps, shampoos and moisturizers. Depending on its origin and processing steps, its density can vary from 0.89-0.98 g/ml.