Foods from the Amazon Rainforest…fruits of the forest

Foods from the Amazon Rainforest…fruits of the forest.

More than 3000 edible fruits are found in Amazon rain forest, amongst them…… Acai, avocado, banana, coconuts, Cupuaçu, fig, grapes, lemon,mango, oranges and pineapple. Many are indigenous, some such as melon were introduced as long ago as the the 1600s.

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Acai fruit from the Acai palm tree is an essential fruit for local people of the forest. It is a small black berry packed with protein. Unfortunately the increasing popularity of this fruit worldwide means cleared forests, large plantations and the use of fertilisers and pesticides….which isn’t necessarily good for the rainforest, its wildlife or its inhabitants.

Pineapples, picked from the centre of low, thick leaved bushes, and guarded, often, by huge, black, hairy, Pink-toed Tarantulas, are sweet and tender. Opened with a slash of a sharp machete, the firm, pale yellow flesh is eaten dripping with clear yellow juice. Not a bit like the floppy sad rings, dipped in thick, sweet, orange syrup, that we in the west have for dessert.

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Mangoes are picked from the trees when ripe or picked up after a storm. The mangoes bare little resemblance to shop-bought ones. they have a distinctive, fresh smell.The mint green peel is easily opened to reveal rich, golden flesh, so full of juice it runs through your fingers, sticky and luscious.

The Cupuaçu trees come from the Amazon region. The fruit is oblong, brown,and fuzzy. It has a rich creamy whitened, aromatic pulp. The vitamin and mineral rich pulp is used to produce delicious juices, jellies, ice creams, shakes, mousses and chocolates.

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Palla, Conta or Shapaja Palm (Attalea butyracea) Amazon Rainforest Trees.

Palla, Conta or Shapaja Palm.(Attalea butyracea)

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There are about 1.8 billion Palla across the Amazon Basin. The palm leaves have always been used by indigenous people to thatch the roofs of their huts.
The large leaves of the Palla were used to thatch the roof of my own lodge. The leaves last 5/10 years, depending on the weather and skill of the thatchers. My roof was looking decidedly sad after just three years and had several gaps through which the rain poured, but I just had it patched up rather then put a plastic or tin roof on as was suggested.

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My friends, local people, were able to weave the palms too. They made sunscreens for me and room dividers.

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Local people were also able to make intricate decorations from Palla leaves. They included hearts, flowers, birds, fans, insects, and so on. They sometimes made them without taking the leaves from the stem, as shown.

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The Amazon Rainforest has 16,000 different species of trees, including the Palla palm. It is thought there are four hundred billion trees altogether in the rainforest. The Amazon Rainforest is truly a treasure.

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Amazon Rainforest Trees…Huicungo (Astrocaryum murumuru)

Amazon Rainforest Trees….Huicungo (Astrocaryum murumuru)

There are more than a billion Huicungo trees in the rainforest.They grow up to 15 metres and their fruits are edible.

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Like many trees in the rainforest the Huicungo uses sharp spines on its trunk to protect it. Some birds ie the Long-billed Wood Creeper, are able to forage for insects without becoming impaled.

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The hard seeds of the Huicungo are used to make black rings.

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Brazil-nut Tree…‘Castanheiro do Para’ Its amazing reproduction system.

Brazil-nut Tree…‘Castanheiro do Para’ (Brazil)

Brazil-nut trees are huge. They can reach over 200 feet/30 metres high. They dominate the forest and are protected by law from cutting down. They grow in pristine forest, necessary for their complicated reproduction system.

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At the very beginning of the reproduction system the Brazil nut tree needs an orchid and a bee.
The orchid bee (Euglossa) collects nectar from the flowering Brazil nut trees. These specialist bees have a long tongue that can open the flower.
As they collect nectar the bees spread pollen from tree to tree fertilising the yellow Brazil nut tree flowers and thereby the fruit…the nuts.
The male orchid bees attract females with the fragrance from a particular orchid. The larger female orchid bee pollinates the Brazil-nut Tree.

The nuts, that we know are the seeds of the tree, which are enclosed in a large husk similar to that of a coconut. The shell is rock solid and needs to be opened with a sharp machete to release the 8 to 24 seeds, so how does it get opened in the wild?
The answer is the Agouti. A large rodent with razor sharp, chisel-like teeth. The agouti eats some of the seeds and takes off others to bury them for later. If some of the seeds are forgotten they will eventually germinate and grow into new trees.

Brazil-nut husks ready for opening. The empty shells I used as plant pots and holders.

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The Brazil-nut Tree needs a bee, an orchid and an agouti to reproduce. It needs pristine, untouched forest for these conditions to be met. Deforestation, even if the tree is kept in place, can affect anyone of these conditions so that reproduction cannot take place and we lose a magnificent tree as well as a delicious food source.

Amazon Giant Water Lily…Amazon plants, Brazil.

Amazon Giant Water Lily.

The Amazon Giant Water Lily has a fascinating reproduction system.

The white female Lily opens at night. A beetle, the Scarab Beetle, covered with a dusting of male pollen,is attracted to the strong, sweet perfume of the female flower and moves in to feed on the nectar. In the morning when the sun rises and the temperature increases the flower closes and some of the beetles are trapped. They continue to feed on the nectar throughout the day, distributing male pollen on the lily as they do. This results in the white female flower turning pink and become male. At nightfall the now pink male flower opens, the beetle is released covered with a dusting of male pollen and it moves onto another white female flower to begin the whole cycle again.

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The reproduction system of this flower and other flowers and trees in the forest are held in a delicate balance. Disrupt this balance and the whole eco-system collapses and we will be the losers.