Ark of taste
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The bacuri (Platonia insignis Mart) is a deciduous tree that bears fruit between January and April. The name bacuri comes from the tupi-guarani language, in which “ba” means to fall, and “curi” means early; indeed, the fruits are gathered when they drop from the trees, fully ripened.
The trunk can grow to heights ranging between 25 and 40 meters with a diameter greater than 1 ½ meters, while the bark exudes copious yellow latex. The tree’s crown is pyramidal and the fruits are oval shaped and reach lengths between 7 and 14 cm; they have a thick yellow rind and are very similar to papayas. The rind of the fruit also gives off yellow latex when squeezed. The white pulp is sticky and fragrant, with a flavor that is both sweet and sour at the same time. Each fruit contains between three and five seeds.
Each bacuri tree can produce up to 2,000 fruits, but the median annual production is about 400. Some trees do not produce every year, occasionally taking a year off.
This tree, also known in Brazil as the bacurizeiro, is native to Pará, and the most concentrated area for these trees is the Amazon River’s estuary, particularly the Salgado region and Marajó island, though it is also present in Maranhão, Piauí and other areas of the country, though only rarely in the western Amazon.
Due to the high value of the wood, many trees have been cut down in the past four centuries to build boats and furniture. Indeed, the high cost of the wood continues to be the main reason that this tree is at risk of extinction. Those trees still present in the coastal areas of Pará and Maranhão have been able to avoid agricultural practices and the intense urbanization that have put the entire forest at risk.
The first records of these trees were written in a religious text from the 17th century. In a chorographic essay on the Pará province published in 1839, the Portuguese military geographer Antônio Ladislau Monteiro Baena described the geography, natural resources and the peoples of the region, while underlining the importance of the bacurizeiro, or “the tree that produces sweet and sour fruit”.
Local writer Osvaldo Orinco wrote in his book “Cozinha amazônica: uma autobiografia do paladar”, that the diplomat José Maria da Silva Paranhos Júnior, the Baron of Rio Branco who famously resolved the border problems between Brazil and neighboring countries, proposed the bacuri as a desert in the official banquets held at the Itamarati Palace in Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of the 20th century.
The bacuri fruits available on the market are principally those gathered from wild trees, though their cultivation is starting to spread. The farmers of the Amazon adopt various practices to increase the fruit production of the trees that they call stragglers: those that blossom abundantly but produce few fruits. One example of such a practice is the cutting off of small sections of bark, after which the farmers hammer nails into the trunk, from which they then hang containers full of water, or simply tie a belt around the trees. The cutting of the bark is done in different ways: sometimes it takes place during the blossoming period while at others it takes place at the full moon. Another traditional practice calls for the use of a vine from the tracua (Philodendron megalophyllum, which is an ant-harboring vine) to hit the tree, after which the vine is tied to the trunk at chest-height of the person who hit the tree. But some cultivators hold that the bacuri tree gets angry when it is hit and thus produces both ripe and unripe fruit, in an act of revenge. These cultivators believe that when unripe fruit falls it is a punishment from the gods for those who hit the tree.
The fruit of this tree is one of the most popular in the markets of São Luiz, Teresina and Belém. The sweet pulp is used to produce creams, sorbets and fruit juices. In the areas surrounding the markets women, children and seniors gather the fruit to sell them at the markets and earn a little bit of extra money for their families.
The oil that comes out of the toasted seeds is used to produce medicinal oil that is helpful against skin diseases and also used as a cosmetic, while the tree’s resin also has medicinal uses.

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Fruit, nuts and fruit preserves

Nominated by:Laíse Carvalho Silva