The maqui (Aristotelia chilensis), as it is called by the Mapuche population, is a small evergreen tree that grows in the pre-Andean mountain areas and humid locations, above all in the Valparaiso region and in the temperate rainforests of Valdivia.
The shrub produces a small, dark-coloured fleshy berry, which is almost black and which ripens towards the end of the summer. As with all native species, it is widely known and was used by indigenous populations, who appreciated its nutritional and medicinal properties.
As explained by the naturalist Claudio Gay in his 1844 publication, ""Atlas de Historia Fisica y Politica de Chile"", the Mapuche population would eat the berries both fresh and as part of medicinal beverages thanks to its antibacterial properties. To this day, the Mapuche use the fruit to prepare the chicha de maqui, a fermented beverage, exploiting the intense colour of the berries: only a few are needed to add flavour and colour in various different recipes. They are also used to create fabric dyes.
The leaves too can be exploited for their medicinal properties, above all to treat burns and wounds, but can also be eaten as lettuce when tender.
They are also eaten ""al pie de la mata"" or rather under the shade of the trees, an expression to describe the tradition of going for a walk with guests, friends and family, to collect forest fruits and eat them right there where they have been picked. For ""comer maqui al pie de la mata"", a walk must be taken in the early morning when the fruits are still fresh and free of any dust.
As is the case with many native trees, the natural habitat of the maqui is slowly disappearing due to deforestation. Today the maqui is being increasingly commercialised to produce dietary supplements, increasing its popularity, which not only weakens ecosystems and its availability in the forests, but also leads to the expropriation of farming communities and the Mapuche, making it extremely difficult for them to collect the fruit, whose traditional use is thus being progressively lost.