Araza (scientific name Eugenia stipitata) is an exceptional fruit of the New World belonging to the Myrtaceae family. In fact, not even the people of Amazonia Brazil, where the plant has its origin, known about it widely. This round fruit grows on a small tree with many stems. Araza fruits bear resemblance to tennis balls and they grow in large numbers hanging from the stretched out weeping branches.
Although this fruit is somewhat sour, it is extremely adaptable owing to its delightful flavour, color, smell and texture. Generally, these fruits are used for making tropical cocktails and drinks, ice cream and popsicles. The trees take only about two to three years to bear the fruits.
The araza plant is basically a small tree or shrub growing up to a height of anything between 2.5 meters and 15 meters. All trees of this species are very densely branched. The color of the flaking branches of this species may vary from brown to reddish. The leaves of araza are simple, opposite and their shape may vary from elliptical to somewhat oval.
The color of the leaves is dull and deep green and each leaf has six to ten pairs of impressed tangential veins, which are light green in color and shortly pilose with scattered hairs on their underside. The inflorescences of araza are basically axillary racemes with each usually comprising two to five flowers that measure 1 cm in width and are pedicillate. Moreover, each flower of this species comprises four curved sepals and five white, oval-shaped petals.
The fruit of araza is oblate to globose or a sphere-shaped berry measuring 2 cm - 10 cm X 2 cm - 12 cm and it may weigh up to 750 grams each. When unripe, the fruits are pale green and their color changes to bright yellow on ripening.
The ripened fruit has a very thin, velvety skin that encloses a succulent, aromatic, thick pulp that is acidic in nature. Each fruit generally contains 12 seeds, which are recalcitrant. In other words, the seeds of araza do not remain alive when they are dried or frozen in ex-situ preservation.
The araza fruit tree is native to the western region of Amazonia. Since very few people are aware of the existence of this plant, it has remained an underutilized crop despite its fascinating properties, which may promote agricultural development. While araza is highly acidic for consuming it directly, this fruit can be processed to make juices, marmalades, nectars, ice creams and so on. The flavour of this fruit is exotic as well as revitalizing.
It is believed that araza has its origin in the farthest western region of the Amazon basin. Perhaps this species is native to the Peruvian Amazon. Nearly all the wild trees of this species are found growing on non-floodable, old terraces in the white, tropical and extremely leached podzolic soils that are particularly distributed in the region between the Marañón and Ucayali Rivers - the area which is considered to be the beginning of the Amazon, and extending to so far as the Brazilian state Acre and Iquitos.
Since araza only exists in the western regions of the Amazonia, it appears that the Indians have not done anything to spread this species widely. However, the varieties selected by the Indians in Peru in the region of Iquitos and cultivated locally may produce fruits measuring 12 cm across and weighing about 740 grams each.
Compared to these, the wild varieties of araza fruits usually do not grow beyond 7 cm across and weigh just 30 grams. Although rarely, but at times you may find araza plants growing in places outside the western Amazonia such as in Brazil, Bolivia and Colombia.
Basically, this plant is exotic to other tropical regions of Central America, South America, and Florida. Over the years, some varieties of araza have also been introduced in other places in the tropics such as Malaysia, Sabah and Tenom.
Similar to many other fruits, araza also encloses plenty of helpful natural compounds, suggesting that consumption of this fruit offers you several health benefits. The vitamin C content of araza is very high, almost twice the amount found in any average orange.
Aside from vitamin C, this fruit also contains elevated levels of vitamin A, folate as well as other essential nutrients. As a result, consumption of araza may be useful in putting off heart disease and stroke, regulating cholesterol and blood pressure, offering protection against vision loss and also help to prevent development of some specific forms of cancer.
Araza also encloses valuable dietary fibers, which help in maintaining normal bowel movement in addition to promoting detoxification of our entire body. Consumption of this fruit helps to cleanse the intestines, thereby decreasing the risks of being infected in any way. The dietary fibers present in araza also help to prevent constipation. Taking a diet that includes appropriate amounts of dietary fibers also helps to lessen the risks of developing colon cancer.
If you are keen on eating healthy as well as losing weight, it is essential that you take a diet that comprises lots of vegetables and fruits, such as araza. Dietary fibers present in fruits will give you a sense of fullness for a longer duration. In other words, you will not be feeling hungry for quite some time, thereby be successful in avoiding over-eating, which, in turn, will lead to weight loss.
Aside from its therapeutic benefits, araza also has a number of culinary uses. Despite being somewhat sour, this fruit is very versatile owing to its texture, color, aroma and delightful taste. Generally, people use these fruits to make a number of tropical drinks as well as cocktails, in addition to ice creams and popsicles.
While araza is highly acidic for direct consumption, you can process this fruit to make marmalades, juices, nectars, ice creams and other similar things having an exotic as well as refreshing flavour.
When blended with water and any other basic fruit such as pears, araza really makes wonderful drinks. In Brazil, people blend the juice of araza with water to prepare an exotic drink, which is locally called Araza succo.
Chemical analysis of araza (Eugenia stipitata) fruit, which has its origin in western Amazonia, revealed that it contains rich amounts of volatile compounds, terpenes, oils, dietary fibers and vitamin C. Araza is valued for its potent antioxidant properties and has lately attracted lots of attention owing to its probable health benefits to humans.
The oil extracted from araza fruit mainly contains sesquiterpenes, whose main constituent is germacrene B. In fact, the potent antioxidant activity of Eugenia stipitata is attributed to germacrene B. In addition, an ethanolic extract from araza has demonstrated anti-genotoxic and anti-mutagenic attributes, suggesting that consumption of this tropical fruit may possibly help in preventing various forms of cancer.
The araza plant bears fruits all through the year, providing two to four harvests every year. This is possible because the period between fruit setting and harvesting is very short, just about 84 days, especially in Colombia's San José de Guaviare. The harvesting conditions of araza (Eugenia stipitata) are similar to that of guava. To a lesser extent, even the color and size of araza and guava are the same.
However, if the fruits of Eugenia stipitata are left to ripen on the trees, their shelf life following harvesting is just about 72 hours, as the fruits become subject to anthracnose as well as other decays. As a result, araza is harvested when it is still green, as it helps to put off the softening and bruising of the fruit. Subsequently, fresh fruits are sent to processing units packed in plastic trays with a maximum of three fruit layers.
Ideally, these fruits should be harvested when their color just begins to turn yellow and then allowed to ripen off the trees. It is important to handle the fruits very carefully after harvesting since the skin of araza is not only thin, but the pulp too is very delicate.