With consumers becoming more health conscious, both acai berries and blackberries have increased in popularity because they are both rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants counteract some of the damage from the normal oxidation process in your body that contributes to chronic diseases. Acai berries come from the acai palm tree (Euterpe oleracea). Blackberry bushes belong to the species Rubus and produce edible fruit.
People native to the Amazon region know acai as a traditional food that tribes such as the Shuar ate centuries ago. According to the Association of Acai Berry Growers, the legend in this tribe goes that when the village faced famine, the chief decreed all newborns be put to death immediately. When his daughter, Iaca, had a baby, he honored his own law. Iaca mourned in solitude until she thought she heard her baby's cry. When she searched for the child, instead she found the acai palm growing, completely covered with fruit. Iaca laid down and died beneath the tree, so the chief spelled her name backward and named the palm in her memory. The food of the tree fed the people and provided medicine to the healers from that day forward. Blackberries also have some interesting stories behind them. One claims Lucifer fell on a blackberry bush when he fell from heaven and cursed the plant, making it ugly. As a result, European folklore considers blackberry sightings or dreams as negative omens.
Blackberries and acai berries are very different from each other. Acai grows on a tree, whereas blackberries come from bushes. Acai palm trees originate in South and Central America. They grow up to 70 feet tall. Acai fruit looks a bit like blueberries, with a circumference of approximately 1 inch. Once planted it takes five years before the acai palm yields fruit. By comparison, the blackberry isn't even really a berry. In botanical terms, it's an aggregate perennial fruit. There are more than 300 species of blackberry bushes growing predominantly in temperate zones. Blackberry bushes do not produce fruit for the first two years.
Hardiness and Production
Acai palms dislike the cold and only grow in regions without frost. Provided they remain in temperatures above 50 degrees, acai produce fruit year round. Blackberries survive frosts very well. They're hardy plants that grow even in poor soil. Blackberries generally ripen by October, and the bush produces only one crop a year.
Blackberries don't require a lot of special attention. They do, however, have a tendency to spread out aggressively, sending runners into the soil. Thornless varieties of blackberry bushes exist now, so you can grow fruit without pricking yourself. Acai requires greenhouse-type conditions, making it poorly suited for most gardens.
In 2006, the University of Florida produced a study on acai berries showing they have cancer-fighting abilities because of they have loads of antioxidants. In Brazil, people eat the berries to allay digestive problems, since the berries are rich in fiber. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition lists blackberries as one of the foods high in antioxidants. Blackberry root appears in European folk remedies for diarrhea.
Besides its popularity as a health supplement, acai berries sometimes flavor tequila or vodka, or become part of livestock food. The palm tree's leaves work well in craft projects such as making baskets or hats. Blackberries appear predominantly in dessert blends, as wine flavoring and sometimes in gourmet sauces and mustard.