Cupuacu

The Amazon's Beauty Secret

Cupuacu (pronounced koo­-poo-­ah-­soo) is a delicious melon-­sized fruit with creamy white pulp that grows in the drainage basin of the Amazon in northern parts of Brazil. Cupuacu is known in the Amazon as “the pharmacy in a fruit” and could be considered one of the most nutritionally beneficial superfruits ever introduced to the outside world. As a cousin of the cacao fruit, cupuacu has a prized tropical flavor combining elements of chocolate, bananas, pear, passion fruit and pineapple.

Benefits of the Cupuacu Fruit

The History of Cupuacu

The cupuacu tree, which is a relative of the cocoa tree, can be literally translated as “Food of the Gods.” It was greatly revered among ancient South American cultures for both its taste and medicinal properties.

During the days of shamanistic tradition, cupuacu fruits were often given to pregnant women or newlyweds as heralds of blessings and fertility. In turn, the seeds of the fruit were considered a possible remedy for abdominal pain.

Today, cupuacu is the official fruit of Pará, a state in northern Brazil, and is used to make juices, smoothies, jellies, and desserts.

The cupuacu seeds, on the other hand, are used to make a more nutrient-dense, locally-available version of faux chocolate known as “cupualte.”

Cupuacu is also used a great deal by the cosmetics industry, as its hydrating nutrients and emollient properties are similar to cocoa butter.

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Harvesting Cupuacu

Cupuacu is harvested as a sustainable rainforest product from the Amazon. It is common throughout the Amazon drainage basin where the trees grow wild under the canopy of the rainforest and preserve the natural ecosystem of the region. What’s more, since it grows naturally throughout Brazil and can be harvested in between more intensive harvests like acai, the popular spread of cupuacu is uniquely positioned to benefit the people of the Amazon most directly. 

That being said, cupuacu does require some patience. Cupuacu trees don’t produce fruit that humans can eat until they are at least five or six years old. Once the tree begins producing fruit, the ripening and harvesting will generally occur during the rainy season between January and April. 

Once ripe, the fuzzy and oblong fruits look like a mashup between a coconut, a papaya, a melon, and a potato. They are covered with a thick outer skin and are harvested for both their pulp and their seeds.

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