Sunday, April 1, 2012

FRUITS OF BRAZIL - Bacuri

Although many Brazilian consider bacuri (Platonia insignis) to be one of the tastiest fruits native to the Amazonian rain forest, the bacuri will never win any botanical beauty contests. The fruit is so plain and non-assuming, if not downright ugly, that it's a wonder that the primitive Amerindians, the region's first inhabitants, even bothered to open one up and taste it - especially when the Amazon is so rich in fruits that are both beautiful and tasty. But the Amerindians must love it - even today, the native don't cultivate the fruit, which grows best on tall, ancients trees, but when they clear an area to create an open living space, they always leave any bacuri trees untouched so they may enjoy the bounty in their new homes.

The bacuri tree grows wild in a very large geographical region, from the Guianas, through the entire Amazon basin as far as Colombia in the northwest and Paraguay in the southwest. The tree bears fruit during the dry season, which is from August to the end of November in most of the Brazilian part of the Amazon basin.

The bacuri fruit itself has a thick yellow-brown, often mottled skin, making the fruit look a bit like a rounded papaya. When the thick skin is cut away, the fruit's sticky white pulp is exposed. The pulp surrounds anywhere from three to five seed, and is strongly aromatic (maybe that's why the ancient Amerindians decided to give the bacuri a try). The taste of the fruit itself is described as being both sweet and sour at the same time.

Most of Brazil's bacuri crop is eaten fresh, and is marketed only in the region in which it grows, or nearby. There is limited industrial processing of the fruit, mostly making ice creams, jams and jelllies. Up to now, the export market for bacuri hasn't been developed, and the fruit is very little known outside Brazil and neighboring countries.

Bacuri - painted in oils by Solange Bogea
Ugly as the fruit might be, bacuri is refreshing and has a very distinctive taste. For anyone who is visiting the Amazon, it's well worth one's time to search out bacuri in markets and supermarkets if the season is right. If not, look for bacuri ice cream - it's available year round and the taste is very much like that of the natural fruit.

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