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.

20130904-154147.jpg
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.

20130904-155427.jpg

20130904-155435.jpg
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.

20130904-155630.jpg

20130904-155647.jpg

Advertisements

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.

20130930-201118.jpg

20130930-201106.jpg
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.

20130930-201302.jpg
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.