açai

Pronunciation: [ah-SI-ee; ah-SAH-ee]

Native to the tropical areas of Central and South America, the açai berry is being touted as the new superfood and is known by some as the "power berry." That's because it's exceedingly rich in nutrients including antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, oleic acid and potassium, to name a few. The dark purple grape-sized fruit grows on the açai palm, which is also called the cabbage palm because natives eat its young, tender leaf buds as one would cabbage. Hearts of palm is another food source harvested from this tall palm. The açai berry contains only a small portion of pulp—about 90 percent of it is an inedible nut. The pulp, which has a flavor reminiscent of berries with a hint of chocolate, is quite delicate and deteriorates quickly. That's why consumers in North America only have access to açai in juice form (primarily as a concentrate), which can be found in the refrigerated or freezer section of natural food stores. It's also available as frozen pulp, or in a powdered form. Because of its ascribed health benefits, açai has become a favorite addition to smoothies.

From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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