Thursday, April 14, 2011

The "Magic" Pitanga - A New Book from Brazil

The delightful Brazilian fruit called pitanga has been covered previously on Flavors of Brazil. (Click here to read more.) Its versatility and utility are well-known to Brazilian cooks and chefs, and it's one of those fruits that suits both savory and sweet dishes. It also is used as an ingredient in health and beauty products - in Brazil and increasingly outside the country.

Recently Brazilian publisher Optionline launched a book entirely dedicated to this little red berry, entitled Pitanga Mágica (Magic Pitanga). The author is Luiz Grossman, an agricultural engineer from São Paulo state, who has studied pitanga for more than ten years at an experimental farm in the city of Ibiúna. There he cultivates more than 25,000 pitanga trees for his research purposes.

Professor Grossman says that even after such a long time studying this fruit, he is still learning about new properties of the pitanga. "It's a marvelous and unique plant," he says. "We have been doing laboratory tests in the labs of USP (Universidade de São Paulo)...This plant has uses in cooking, in cosmetics and in health. The essential oils from pitanga leaves contain substances found in no other plant."

In cosmetics, the pitanga has important use in anti-acne creams and aids in facial revitalizing lotions and creams. A simple tea brewed from pitanga leaves can aid in combating fevers and gastrointestinal problems as well as rheumatic pains. Pitanga is rich in lycopene, a carotene that is also found in tomatoes, watermelons and papayas and which has been shown to have valuable antioxidant properties.

The book, which is in Portuguese, can be purchased online from Brazilian bookstore, Livraria Cultura and costs R$50 (about USD $30). (Direct link here.)Incidentally, all proceeds from the sale of this book will go to Unibes, the Brazilo-Israeli Social Welfare Union.

Professor Grossman feels that the pitanga has symbolic importance among Brazilian fruits. The book is subtitled "The most Brazilian fruit - in cooking, cosmetics and health." Grossman says, "The Pitanga is the emblematic fruit of Brazil, since it will bear fruit in any backyard in the country, in any region." Whether one comes across the pitanga in a salad dressing, a jam or jelly, a face cream, or a tea bag, one is consuming just a bit of Brazil along with that little red berry. All hail the mighty pitanga.

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