What’s Camu-Camu fruit?

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Camu-camu berries are a tart fruit native to the Amazon rainforest, high in vitamin C and used in dietary supplements. They are often used as an ingredient in dishes and are easy to grow, but face market barriers due to their high cost and lack of visibility. Harvesting from wild plants may also be unsustainable.

Camu-camu berries are the fruit of the camu-camu tree native to the Amazon rainforest of Peru and Brazil. They have red or purple skin, white flesh, and large seeds. While they resemble cherry in appearance, they are much tarter and are not usually eaten plain.

Indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest have been harvesting and growing camu-camu berries since before the arrival of Europeans. In recent decades, the fruit has become popular in overseas markets, especially Japan. These berries are high in vitamin C, bioflavanoids and amino acids and are therefore sometimes used to produce a dietary supplement in capsule or powder form. While not the most flavorful berries, they have an appealing aroma and color. They are often used as an ingredient in ice cream, candy, or similar dishes, rather than just being eaten.

Camu-camu berries are easy to grow and the camu-camu tree will grow in tropical and subtropical climates. The plant requires plenty of water, but will withstand flooding and fairly cold temperatures, though not frost. The berries will start growing when the tree is between four and six years old and appear once a year. Camu-camu trees can continue to bear fruit for decades.

Although camu-camu berries are becoming more popular outside their native habitat, there are some barriers to their market success. They are quite expensive and therefore have a difficult time competing with other sources of vitamin C and tastier fruits. Compounding this problem is the plant’s lack of visibility in foreign markets.

Most of the camu-camu berries are harvested from wild plants, making supply and prices irregular. Additionally, wild camu-camu trees are heavily harvested and may be endangered. While growing commercial crops can alleviate this problem, it can also negatively affect indigenous peoples who make a living picking the wild fruits.

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