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Myrciaria dubia Camu camu   Myrtaceae

Camu camu, Myrciaria dubia


Camu camu, Myrciaria dubia

Myrciaria dubia, commonly known as Camu camu, Camucamu, Cacari, and Camocamo, is a small (approx. 3-5 m tall) bushy riverside tree from the Amazon rainforest vegetation in Peru and Brazil, which bears a red/purple cherry-like fruit. Its small flowers have waxy white petals and a sweet-smelling aroma. It has bushy feathery foliage. The evergreen, opposite leaves are lanceolate to elliptic. Individual leaves are 3 – 20 cm in length and 1 – 2 cm wide. By unsubstantiated inference from its content of phytochemicals and vitamin C levels, camu camu may offer astringent, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiviral, emollient and nutritive properties.

It is a close relative of the Jaboticaba (Myrciaria cauliflora) and the Guavaberry or Rumberry (Myrciaria floribunda).

Camu camu is used mainly for its edible fruits. The tree occurs in locally dense populations (1000/ha) or even monospecific stands in Amazonian flood plains and riparian vegetation. The plant is extremely tolerant of flooding, withstanding 4 to 5 months with the roots and even much of the aerial parts submerged in water. The species propagates through botanical seeds. In cultivation, the tree begins bearing fruits after attaining 2 cm in stem girth (three years after emergence of the seedling). Harvests are seasonal and occur once per year, in synchrony with the annual cycle of precipitation. Plants flower at the end of the dry season and fruit at the peak of the rainy season. Observations with both wild and cultivated plants suggest that trees can remain productive for several decades.

Wild trees have been found to yield 12 kg of fruit on average. At suggested planting densities of 600-1100 trees/ha, about 12 t fruit can be derived in cultivation from one hectare. However, with improved horticultural techniques, such as the use of clonal elite material, pruning and fertilization, much higher yields could be achieved. The current range of Camu camu comprises the Amazonian lowlands of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. The distribution of Camu camu extends from the center of Pará state, Brazil, along the mid and upper Amazon River to the eastern part of Peru; in the north it appears in the Casiquiare and the upper and middle Orinoco River. In Brazil it is found in Rondônia along the Maçangana and Urupa Rivers and in Amazonas, in the municipalities of Manaus and Manacapuru and along the Javarí, Madeira and Negro Rivers.

Long used by native peoples, wild Camu camu is harvested directly into canoes. The fruit has only recently come into large-scale cultivation and sale to the world market with Japan being the major buyer. It is relatively easy to cultivate. It survives best in hot, damp tropical climates but will grow in the subtropics, surviving temperatures down to just above freezing. It requires copious water and withstands flooding. Trees begin to bear fruit after about 4 to 6 years.

Documentation of traditional Camu camu uses is scarce. It is unlikely that in traditional Amazonian societies Camu camu has ever been nutritionally relevant. The fruit is extremely acidic, and the flavour can only be appreciated in recipes requiring a blender, dilution in milk/water and the addition of sugar.

Camu camu has an extraordinarily high Vitamin C content (in the order of 2-3% of fresh weight, second only to the Australian native Terminalia ferdinandiana) and is the most important property of the Camu camu fruit, which has been exploited consistently in positioning Camu camu on international markets. Vitamin C content declines as full maturity is reached, and there is a trade-off between Vitamin C and flavour expression. As a myrtaceous fruit, Camu camu most likely provides other nutritional benefits, but these are less understood and communicated to consumers.

Camu camu has also a unique aroma and fruit pigmentation. A reddish pigment in the leathery skin (probably anthocyanins) imparts an attractive and unique pink color on juices extracted from Camu Camu. The aroma is subtle, but is not as captivating as in more popular fruits. Camu Camu is more recently also used in ice creams, sweets, etc.

Processed powder from the fruit pulp is beginning to be sold in the west as a health food in loose powder or capsule form. In addition to the high Vitamin C content it contains the amino acids valine, leucine and serine.

It is also rich in flavonoids, such as anthocyanins, flavonols and flavanols, catechins, delphinidin 3-glucoside, cyanidin 3-glucoside, ellagic acid and rutin; other analysis revealed the presence of gallic and ellagic acids, suggesting that camu camu fruit possesses hydrolysed tannins (gallo- and/or ellagitannins)

Camu camu, Myrciaria dubia Camu camu, Myrciaria dubia Camu camu, Myrciaria dubia