Many of the fruits we enjoy today, including figs, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, bananas, guavas, pineapples and mangoes, originated in the Amazon rain forest. However, these and other fruits familiar to us represent just a small fraction of all rain forest fruits, which number in the thousands. Like many rain forest plants, flowers and vegetables, numerous fruits remain unknown beyond the Amazon, and their potential nutritional and health benefits remain undocumented.
Maracuja is better known as passion fruit (Passiflora incarnata). In the Amazon rain forest, maracuja grows on vines. The indigenous people of the Amazon reap many nutritional, health and medicinal benefits from passion fruit. Maracuja leaves are used to create a tonic to calm the nerves as well as to manufacture maracuja tea. Ice cream, jams and fruit drinks are among the products made from yellow passionfruit (Passiflora edulis).
The acai palm berry (Euterpe oleracea) has gained global popularity due to the health benefits of its antioxidants. Acai berries are a traditional part of the Brazilian diet. The acai palm produces approximately 40 to 50 pounds of the famous purple berries per year. The berries grow in large clusters on the uppermost branches of the acai palm tree.
Acai berries are extremely perishable, so they remain a fruit enjoyed by Brazilians but not really a practical export to the rest of the world in fruit form.
The turu palm (Oenocarpus bacaba) produces a dark red to purple fruit called bacaba or palm fruit. It is also commonly called kumbu. The turu palm is a member of the Arecaceae family. Traditionally, cooking the bacaba is the preferred way of enjoying this fruit. People also drink the juice of the bacaba fruit.
The strawberry guava plant (Psidium cattleianum) is bushy, growing to between 10 and 20 feet high, with glossy green leaves and white flowers. The dark red, thin- skinned fruit is also called cattley guava. In Brazil, it is known as oraca de praia. Strawberry guava is juicy with a pleasant strawberry-like taste as this name suggests. Jam is a product of strawberry guava.
Camu-camu (Myrciaria dubia) is also known as rumberry. It is an orange fruit that grows on shrubs with feathery leaves. The camu-camu ripens when the water levels in the Amazon are at their highest, so harvesting of this Vitamin-C-rich fruit happens by canoe. It has not been a popular edible fruit because of its relatively unappealing taste. However, the use of camu-camu in products like ice cream makes it more palatable.