Babaçu

Ark of taste
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Babaçu

Babaçu is a particular kind of palm tree which grows extensively in north-east Brazil and produces a very small coconut. The coconut is usually picked by women from one Brazil’s poorest regions, called quebradeiras de coco babaçu – “coconut smashers”. Coconut production is concentrated in the southern part of the state of Maranhão, in the north of the state of Tocantis and in the state of Pará. The fruit of the Babaçu was an essential dietary supplement and source of income for families in rural communities of the region, and still has great economic value today because it yields an infinite number of by-products. The nut itself yields Babaçu oil, with its hazelnut aroma, used in traditional regional dishes especially fish-based recipes. The coconuts are picked in the babaçuais forests by the quebradeiras, who smash the nuts with a wooden stick to extract the oil. The coconuts fall from the tree when they are ripe and are gathered in small plots of land run collectively by the local community and the sem terra. Illegal appropriation of land by large companies and the increasingly large cultivations of soya and industrial monocultures are threatening the survival of coconut production. Most of the nuts are sold to the cooperative of small producers of Lago de Junco (in the Médio Meraim region) which produces oil and other by-products. The extracted oil is used for making soap, cosmetics, margarine, special fats and cooking oil. Coconut powder (made from the Babaçu mesocarp), which is rich in starch, is used in local recipes and to make a highly nutritious drink. The endocarp yields charcoal. In order to extract the oil the nuts are roasted, crushed in a mortar and mixed with hot water, which facilitates separation of the oily part of the nut. Babaçu is currently produced in the southern part of the state of Maranhão, in the north of the state of Tocantis and in the state of Pará

Image: Marco del Comune & Oliver Migliore

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Territory

StateBrazil
Region

Maranhão

Production area:Lako of Junco , Médio Meraim region