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A brief history of açaí

(article, Culinate staff)

The May 30 issue of the New Yorker featured a history of açai, the purplish Brazilian fruit that, in recent years, became almost mythical among health-food circles in the U.S. 

As reporter John Colapinto sketched out, over the past decade the fruit — known as a berry but actually more akin to an olive — has migrated, thanks to the strenuous efforts of a few devoted American fans, from staple foodstuff of the rural Amazon basin to trendy snack on Brazilian beaches to supposed elixir, integrated into everything from beverages to smoothies to hair pomades.

The inevitable backlash occurred when it became clear that açaí was not — as frequently marketed by Internet scammers — a cure for cancer or a weight-loss guarantee. (And as with quinoa, another South American staple, the açaí boom has pushed the fruit's price out of the reach of Brazil's urban poor.) But Colapinto concludes that açaí is here to stay, as a functional food if not a miracle cure.