Cupuacu: Superfood, Super Health Benefits
Cupuacu is a relatively unknown fruit outside of South America but wildly known in Brazil. For Brazilian’s, Cupuacu is their national fruit and extolled for the many health benefits it provides from both its pulp and seeds. Consumed for centuries by the native people of the Amazon, this amazing superfood is just gaining popularity in the United States for being a true superfood.
You might be wondering how to actually pronounce Cupuacu or Cupuaçu (notice the “ç” which sounds like an unvoiced /s/). The consensus is a variation of the following: “koo-poo-ah-su”, “coo-poo-wa-soo”, or “coo-pwah-soo”. Unless you’re Brazilian and speak Brazilian stylized Portuguese, it probably doesn’t matter much. If it helps, you can also opt for the phonetically friendly “Copuasu” or “Cupuassu”, both of which are helpful variation of the spelling. Regardless of your pronunciation, you will quickly recognize this funny sounding superfood has serious benefits for anyone who is concerned about eating healthy.
The Cupuacu Tree – A tree of life.
If there was a Garden of Eden, and in that garden there was a tree of life, it would not surprise me if that tree was the Cupuacu. And, if Juan Ponce de León had journeyed further south in search of the fountain of youth, perhaps he would have abandoned his search after eating the amazing superfood that comes from this amazing tree.
The Cupuacu tree is from the Theobroma family (Theobroma grandiflorum), which appropriately means, “Food of the Gods”. Not surprising, the cocoa tree, from which we get chocolate, is from the same family. History tells us both trees and their fruit played an important roll in early Amazonian cultures and both were prized throughout the region for their taste, health and medicinal properties.
Despite taking a back seat to cacao during the past century, cupuacu is still wildly popular in Brazil as well as other part of South America. In nature, the cupuacu tree grows wild under the canopy of the rainforest and once it reaches five to six years it provides food for both humans and animals alike. The Cupuacu tree is very similar to the cocoa in terms of shape and height. Under the right conditions the tree can grow to a respectable 65 feet, but when cultivated the tree usually is kept to about half that size, or 30 feet. Demand for this superfood has increased due to recent scientific studies which discovered powerful and unique antioxidants within the pulp and seeds of this superfruit. The growing popularity outside of Brazil has encouraged farmers to grow this superfood both commercially and sustainably.
After planting (most trees are grafted), the cupuacu will begin producing fruit after four to six years. When it reaches its fruiting years it will flower from mid-summer through mid-autumn (June through September). From October through February the superfruits will reach a weight between two and four pounds, fully ripe the fruit then fall to the ground to be harvested from February to April. The cupuacu tree will only fruit once per year making harvest a much celebrated season.
Cupuacu Butter - Enhances Natural Beauty
The fruit of the cupuacu looks something like the cross between a coconut and a papaya. The epicarp (outside covering) of the fruit is very similar to that of a coconut which is brown, fibrous, hard, and somewhat fuzzy – while it is oblong in shape like that of a papaya. In fact, in order to get to the buttery aromatic pulp, you first have to crack open the fruit. Once you open this superfruit, your senses are overwhelmed with a sweet aroma which is unique only to this superfood. Each fruit encases approximately thirty-five hazelnut-sized seeds which have been used medicinally by medicine men, but more recently have been prized for making cupuacu butter. Cupuacu butter which is highly sought after for its dermatological applications and is widely used in high-end beauty products.
How Does Cupuacu Taste?
As Cupuacu’s smell is both exotic and aromatic, so too is its taste. The pulp is slightly acidic with complex flavor. Many have compared the taste to that of bananas, melons, passion fruit, pineapples, pears and even nutella. The most obscure reference is to that of bubble gum, but unless your cupuacu happened to come from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, it tastes nothing of the sort. One thing is for certain, you can definitely taste the undertones of chocolate, which make sense considering the close relationship to cacao. Cupuacu by itself is rather pronounced which explains why it is often coupled with other ingredients to make a variety of foods such as juice mixes, preserves, ice cream, yogurt and smoothies.