Cupuaçu - the taste of the Amazon
Coo poo asoo
When I got to Manaus in the heart of the Amazon rainforest for the first time, I was shocked to find I had never heard of cupuaçu (pronounced ‘coo poo asoo’) before. It is, I was told by locals, the most famous and original fruit of the Amazon basin. In fact, cupuaçu is considered to be the ‘taste of the Amazon’ and in March 2008 it was even declared the national fruit of Brazil. So what is a cupuaçu? And just how does it taste?
Turns out it’s a kind of chocolate! Well, sort of. Cupuaçu (Theobroma grandiflorum) is a very close relative of cocoa (Theobroma cacao), the main ingredient in chocolate. Both species are indigenous trees of the Amazon rainforest and native tribes have used their fruits as a food source for centuries if not millennia.
These very interesting-looking flowers give rise to large pods with a thick and tough brown (cupuaçu) or yellow to orange (cocoa) rind. Inside their hard shell the fruits of both cocoa and cupuaçu contain a white or yellowish juicy lump which consists of numerous large seeds covered in soft, fleshy seed coats.
The cupuaçu doesn’t taste like anything else. Its rich, voluminous flavour is sweet, sour and slightly tart at the same time, with a very pleasant but heavy fruity component reminiscent of a mix of pear, banana and pineapple. On top of all this lies a rather strong hint of something bizarre, almost artificial, that to me tastes like a mix of aniseed and wintergreen or perhaps the resinous aroma of mango skin. To put it short, it simply tastes like cupuaçu!
The fresh pulp of cupuaçu is either eaten raw or turned into refreshing drinks, ice cream, pastries, candies, jams etc. Because of its high levels of antioxidants (anti-ageing effect!) cupuaçu has been touted by some as the next Amazonian ‘superfood’. The fruits of the açai palm (Euterpe oleracea, Arecaceae) and guaraná (i.e. the seeds of Paulinia cupana, Sapindaceae), both also from the Amazon region, have already caused some recent ‘health-food excitement’ in North America and Europe.
Perhaps one detail too many
Because of its low melting point, the fat (‘butter’) extracted from the seeds of both cupuaçu and cocoa is used as a base for suppositories.
Read the whole fascinating story at my post The taste of the Amazon.
- Wolfgang -
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