Pequi (Caryocar brasiliense) is a tropical tree native to the Cerrado, an extensive area of around 2 million square kilometers in Brazil’s central highlands that cuts across several different states. Considered the Brazilian savannah, the Cerrado is one of the most biodiversity-rich areas in the world.
The pequi fruits are as big as an orange and egg-shaped, with emerald-green skin when fully ripe. The flesh is yellow, very fragrant, soft and sweet, and surrounds three spiny seeds. The flesh can be eaten fresh and can also be preserved in brine or frozen. The seeds are rich in minerals and vitamins; once their tiny spines have been removed, they can be eaten roasted or pan-fried. The oil inside the seeds is used for cooking and in traditional medicines to treat respiratory diseases or vision problems caused by vitamin A deficiency. The other parts of the tree can also be used: The bark produces a yellow-brown dye, the wood is of excellent quality and the astringent leaves stimulate the functioning of the liver.
The Xingu Indigenous Park (PIX), located in an area of transition between the Cerrado and Amazonia and crossed by the Xingu River, is home to many varieties of pequi, whose flesh has different colors (yellow, red or white) and which can be with or without spines.
This fruit has a high symbolic value and its consumption is common among the indigenous peoples who make up the multiethnic and multilingual society in the Xingu indigenous territory. In particular, the Kïsêdjê people also produce pequi oil, using a technique learned from the people of the Upper Xingu. These days, the oil extraction is carried out using machinery that processes the seeds after they have been cleaned of their spines and roasted (in the Kïsêdjê indigenous language, the word for pequi means “spiny skin”).
The oil is not used in cooking, but as an insect repellent or for lacquering the skin. It is also sold at markets in the city of São Paulo and represents an important source of income for the communities.
The Presidium promotes the pequi fruits, including through the involvement of the Alliance chefs who are committed to promoting all the park’s products. It also organizes training activities and works to involve new groups of Kïsêdjê in the pequi oil production project, in order to promote its sale and open up new markets.
Ngojhwere, Horehusikhô, Ngôsôkô and Yarumã villages, Wawi Indigenous Land, Querência municipality, Mato Grosso state