Principal use

The pulp is the most important use at this time. In Amazônia it is used to make juices (actually a thick nectar), ice creams and preserves. It has only been studied as materia prima for nectar, however. There is currently international interest in making ice creams, sorbets, kefir, and fruit-filled chocolates. A review of the nectar and pulp storage research follows.

Barbosa et al. (1979) prepared a nectar of uncertain composition and pasteurized it at 90°C for 30 seconds, sealed it in 250 ml cans with internal varnish, let it settle for 10 minutes, cooled it under running water and stored it at room temperature. They analyzed brix, pH, acidity, amino acids, vitamin C, pulp (see Table 2 for initial data), odor and flavor after 1 day, 1 week, 1, 2, 3 and 15 months. Brix rose slightly (from 12.64 to 12.88); and pH (3.4 to 3.25), Amino acids (4.9 to 4.04) and vitamin C (3.4 to 2.5) dropped slightly during the 15 months. All these minor modifications were expected by the authors. Odor and flavor remained good throughout the period.

Chaar (1980) has made the most complete study of nectar published to date. Be prepared a nectar with 37% (by weight) cupuassu pulp, 17% refined sugar and 46% water; used a control, and four chemical (1 - 750 ppm sodium benzoate/250 ppm potassium sorbate; 2 - 500/500; 3 - 250/750; 4 - 750/0) and two pasteurization (75°C for 15 min.; 85°C for 5 min.) treatments. He analyzed brix, pH, acidity and vitamin C, as well as microbial contamination (at 4-day intervals for 28 days) and used a taste-testing panel (at 8-day intervals for 28 days). The 75°C for 15 min. pasteurization treatment was statistically superior to the others, both in terms of "consumer" preference and of all the quality-control analyses made. The first chemical treatment also gave good results.

Oliveira et al. (1984) prepared-three nectars (1 kg pulp: 4 liters water: 0.9 kg sugar) and varied the amount of citric acid (1, 1.5 and 2 g/l) used to lower pH. These were heated for 3 min. at 70°C; sealed in 350 ml cans; autoclaved for 15 min. at 100°C; cooled; and stored at 25°C. They measured brix, pH, acidity, reducing and non-reducing sugars, and vitamin C at monthly intervals for 6 months. All the quality-control analyses showed only slight variation during the 6 month period.

Barbosa et al. (1979) and Chaar (1980) concluded that cupuassu's low pH did not require further adjustment to maintain quality during the test periods, whereas Oliveira et al. (1984) adjusted pH, as the first step in their study. It is probable that Chaar (1980) is correct in stating that cupuassu is acidic enough not to need adjustment of pH, He also states that the pectin levels (see Table 2) are ideal for making jams and jellies.

Alves & Jennings (1979) identified eleven volatile compounds thought to be those responsible for cupuassu's very pleasing aroma. Several are aldehydes, whose esters are responsible for the agreeable part of the aroma. No one component had an aroma similar to that of the fresh pulp, so that this aroma is a complex of many compounds.

To store fresh pulp, Oliveira (1981) tested three methods: A. preheating at 70°C/3 min., canning in clean 350 ml cans, heating at 100°C/15 min., cooling in running water to 35°C, storage at room temperature (28°C); B. as in A. but without heating at 100°C/15 min., storage at -18°C; C. as in B. with addition of 800 ppm sodium benzoate and 200 ppm sodium metabisulfate, storage at room temperature. She measured brix, pH, acidity, reducing and non-reducing augers, and vitamin C at monthly intervals for 6 months and presented the stored pulp to a taste panel at the end of the period. Treatment B presented the least chemical modification, while A and C presented some discoloring, due to caramelization of the sugars, and considerable loss of vitamin C. Treatment A was the "consumers' choice".

Miranda (1989) stored fresh pulp at 8, -2 and -12°C for four months and controlled quality by analyzing pH, acidity, reducing and non-reducing sugars, vitamin C and microbial contamination. Storage at -12°C gave best results, probably because of more complete inhibition of microbial activity and chemical reactions. Fresh pulp is generally quite contaminated with micro-organisms because of the unsanitary conditions in which it is processed, so that: this becomes the primary factor in fresh pulp storage.

Pulp that is frozen in a domestic freezer releases a large quantity of juice upon thawing. This is certainly due to cell rupture by large ice crystals formed at temperatures near 0°C. If the pulp is quick frozen in "freezing tunnels. at very low temperatures, the ice crystals are smaller and tend not to rupture the cell membranes. Upon thawing, the pulp looks like unfrozen pulp (P. Petry, INPA, pers. com.). This rapid, deep-freeze technique should avoid loss of vitamin C and control microbial activity as well. The technology is common in other parts of Brazil and is being introduced into Manaus and Belém.

In 1991, one kilogram of frozen pulp (requiring 5 one-kilo fresh fruit to prepare) ready for export was worth US$ 4.00 to US$ 4.50 in Manaus. Upon reaching New York harbor, the same kilo was worth US$ 5.04 (J.W. Clay, Cultural Survival, pers. com. 1992). At least 13 MT were shipped from Manaus to New York; while there were reports of other shipments, their destination was unknown.

Secondary uses

The cupuassu seed is very rich in fats (±57% dry weight) which are 91% digestible by humans (Correct 1926/1969). In general, these fats are very similar to those of cocoa in their physical-chemical constants, although they have a different fatty acid profile (see Table 3). Silva (1988) states that cupuassu's saturated to unsaturated fatty acid ratio is 1.04, whereas cocoa's is 1.71; according to modern dietary theory, the lower ratio is preferable for human diets. Calzavara (1970) states that Nestle's has expressed an interest in using cupuassu for making white chocolate, but apparently nothing has come onto the market to date, probably because of uneven quality and supply of the materia prima.

Silva (1988) examined cupuassu fat for use in chocolate. Although cupuassu's fatty acid ratio is nutritionally better than cocoa's, its melting point is much lower and therefore it does not melt in the mouth the same way chocolate does. At 10°C, cocoa has about 90% solid fats, while cupuassu has only about 50%; at 27°C (body temperature), cocoa still has about 50%, while cupuassu has only about 30%; at 30°C, cocoa has gone to zero, while cupuassu still has Et few percent (it goes to zero at 35°C). All this means that cupuassu can not substitute cocoa directly for use in chocolate bars. Silva (1988) found that up to 10% of cupuassu fat does not significantly change chocolate melting points.

Venturieri & Aguiar (1988) studied centesimal composition of home-made cupulate (chocolate made from cupuassu seed) and commercially available chocolate. This product has not been studied technologically but is well-accepted locally.

Aragão (1990) studied the seed fermentation process for use in making chocolate. The de-pulped-seeds were fermented for 7 days in a 40 × 40 × 60 cm wooden box with a perforated base; each day they were stirred and a sample was removed for analysis. They were then shade-dried at room temperature to 12% humidity, then sun-dried to 8%, after which they were toasted at 180°C for 30 minutes, skinned, ground and analyzed. The cotyledon's pH rose from 5.25 to 6.8; phenolic compounds rose from 1.12 to 1.34 mg/100 g; fats remained unchanged at 63.5% dry weight; and color changed from a beige cream with rosy tints to a dark reddish caramel. The flavor and aroma of the fermented seed were indistinguishable from that of fermented cocoa seed.

A probable caffeine precursor, 1, 3, 7,9 - tetrametiluric acid, has been found in cupuassu seeds (Baumann & Walker 1980, Vasconcelos et al. 1975). No caffeine, nor "theobromine" (Freise 1935), has been found. More detailed studies are indicated, however, especially if the seed is to be extensively industrialized.

Recently a skin cream made from cupuassu seed fats has been commercialized on the Manaus market, although there are no studies to back up its claimed effectiveness as a skin rejuvenator.

The fruit rind (43% fruit fresh weight) makes a reasonably good compost for manuring, as it contains 1.5% potassium, although it contains only moderate amounts of nitrogen (0.7%) and phosphorus (0.04%) (Silva & Silva 1986). Although Calzavara et al. (1984) recommend its use as animal feed also, this appears to be of doubtful value because of very high fiber levels (48%) and low protein levels (5%) (Silva & Silva 1986).

Collection methods and yields

The fruit falls from the tree when ripe, so that collection involves nothing more than picking the fruit from the ground. Because the fruit peduncle scar offers an easy entry for fungus, bacteria and Escolitidae fruit borers, the plantation should be harvested several times a week and the fruit processed as soon as possible. If unripe fruit are removed from the tree they will not ripen normally and either do not develop full flavor and aroma or rot within a few days.

Calzavara et al. (1984) consider average yields, without fertilization, to be 12-20 fruits/plant at five years from seed, each weighing about 1 kg. At 234 plants/ha (7 × 7 m triangular spacing) this is 2.8-4.7 MT/ha/yr (1-1.8 MT of pulp; 0.45-0.8 MT of seed). Venturieri et al. (1985) suggest that better management and adequate fertilization can raize yields to a level of 20-30 fruits/plant (4.7-7 MT/ha/yr of fruit; 1.8-2.6 MT of pulp; 0.81.2 MT of seed) at five years, increasing to 60-70 (1415.4 MT/ha/yr of fruit; 5.3-5.6 MT of pulp; 2.4-2.6 MT of seed) at 7 years. Although this is much lower than many fruit crops, current market prices make it extremely lucrative. In 1991, a 1 kg fruit on the Manaus market during harvest sold for US$ 0.50 to US$ 1.00, making it one of the most expensive local fruits. At least one local farmer profits more from his one hectare of cupuassu than from 20 ha of cocoa, using the recommended cocoa management practices on both species.

A seedless mutant has been found near Cametá, Pará (Calzavara et al. 1984, Venturieri & Mendonça 1985). The mutation suppresses the formation of the embryo and endosperm, but not the testa, which results in the pulp being almost ready for use. The empty testa, however, is more difficult to remove from the pulp than a normal seed; if it is left in the pulp it imparts a reddish tinge and minute fragments to the processed product. Additionally this cultivar has low yields and is exceptionally susceptible to witch's broom disease, the major disease of both cocoa and cupuassu in Amazônia.

Propagation and cultivation methods

Fruit yield is the result of the interaction of two main factors under human control: the genotype of the plants used and the care that the farmer gives the plants. Since the cupuassu has not yet been improved genetically, it is extremely important to obtain seed or grafting material from elite germplasm. At a farm near Manaus, Amazonas, mass selection was used to identify 16 elite plants from a plantation of 800. These 16 plants yielded more than twice as much as the plantation average, which gives a clear idea of the variation available and the advances that can be made through selection. An elite plant should yield well above the average in, its area, have fruit with high pulp/waste and high seed/waste ratios, have pulp with excellent flavor and aroma, have seed with adequate fatty acid composition for the desired end use and be free from locally important pests and diseases, especially witch's broom.

The selected seed should be cleaned of pulp, treated lightly with a fungicide and sown directly in 2 kg black plastic nursery bags or other adequate container in a shaded (±50%) nursery. Germination is rapid, rarely needing more than 4 weeks to attain 90+%. If two seeds are sown per bag, the weaker or later seedling can be removed shortly after germination and thus guarantee a more uniform stand. When the plants are 40-60 cm tall they should be partially hardened-off for transplanting to the field, by gradually removing the shade until there is only about 25% remaining.

Grafting is relatively easy. The modified Forkert patch budding technique or the side veneer graft both give good results (Venturieri et al. 1986/87). Muller et al. (1981) recommend deep shade for the grafted plants until take has been confirmed and new growth has been achieved.

Similar to the practice in cocoa, the cupuassu should be transplanted into a provisional shade [annatto (Bixa orellana), banana (Musa spp), cassava (Manihot esculenta), pigeon pea (Cajanas spp), castor (Ricinus vulgaris), papaya (Carica papaya), passionfruit (Passiflora spp.) or other short-term crop], which will be removed after its harvest or when the cupuassu needs more space. It can also be transplanted into second growth, of which Amazônia now has more than 100,000 km2.

The square planting pit should be 40 cm in each dimension, filled with topsoil, several kg of manure and 100 g treble superphosphate (Calzavara et al. 1984). Spacing will depend upon plans for pruning seedling trees or use of grafted plants, as well as what permanent shade will be used. Grafted or heavily pruned plants can be planted at 6 × 6 m, interplanted with a relatively open shade [coconut (Cocos nucifera), pupunha (Bactris gasipaes), hog-plum (Spondius lutea), or pruned legumes like inga (Inga edulis or I. cinnamomea) or leucena (Leucaena spp.)]. Lightly pruned or unpruned seedlings should be planted at 7 × 7 m or wider, with similar shade species. In second growth, especially on degraded land, spacing should be wider, even for grafted plants, 80 that these have more space to exploit for nutrients.

Cocoa fertilization schemes (see Purseglove 1968 or similar texts) should improve cupuassu yields significantly, although there are no experimental results to date. Potassium deficiency symptoms (cracked fruits) have been observed; the fruit export potassium, phosphorous, calcium and magnesium in significant quantities (Silva & Silva 1986).

As an Amazonian native, cupuassu has numerous co-evolved pests and diseases which are not a problem at its usual low abundance. In plantation situations, even mixed with other species, phytosanitary pressures quickly build up. There are several boring insects, both of the fruit and the trunk, that can become a problem in some areas; control should be done as needed and is rarely cumbersome. Near Manaus a fruit borer (Conotraquelus sp., Escolitidae) is becoming serious. It destroys seeds and excavates epicarp galleries (B. Ronch Teles, pers. com.). There is no efficient control method for this pest.

Diseases are much more of a problem, especially witch's broom disease, which can cause die-back or a heavy growth of side-shoots on the branches and pod rot of the fruit. Control is labor intensive, i.e. pruning of the infected branches (to 10 cm below the evident symptoms in the cambrium), followed by burial or burning. Other diseases, like anthracnose (Colletotrichum gloesporioides), burning string (Pellicularia koleroga), and diseases spread by infected pruning implements (Botriodiploidia spp) are less important and relatively easy to control.

Currently there is significant planting of cupuassu in both the Manaus and the Belém areas, both in monoculture and at high density in agroforestry environments (i.e. cupuassu with shade trees, as mentioned above). As long as demand remains strong and provides sufficient capital to maintain these plantations, biological pressures are controllable. More research on both types of agroecosystem is urgent, however, as little is known about cupuassu behavior in either.

Cupuassu appears to be suitable for a forest management environment also, as it is tolerant of shade and has not yet been so modified by selection to change its tropical-forest adaptations. Yields will be significantly lower, however, unless special germplasm can be found or developed for this environment. Nonetheless, this area also requires research, as none has even started yet.

Research contacts

MSc. Wilson C. Barbosa, Dept. Tecnologia de Alimentos, CPATU/EMBRAPA, Cx. Postal 48, 66.040 Belém, Pará, Brazil.

Dr. Batista B.G. Calzavara, CPATU/EMBRAPA, Cx. Postal 48, 66.040 Belém, Pará, Brazil.

MSc. José M. Chaar, Dept. de Medicamentos e Alimentos, Faculdade de Ciências de Saúde, Fundação Universidade do Amazonas, Rua Comendador Alexandre Amorim, 330, Aparecida, 69.007 Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil.

MSc. Carlos H. Müller, CPATU/EMBRAPA, Cx. Postal 48, 66.040 Belém, Pará, Brazil.

Dr. Wilson G. da Silva, Dept. de Medicamentos e Alimentos, Faculdade de Ciências de Saúde, Fundação Universidade do Amazonas, Rua Comendador Alexandre Amorim, 330, Aparecida, 69.007 Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil.

MSc. Giorgini A. Venturieri, Universidade Federal do Pará, Depto. Genética, Centro Ciências Biológicas, Campus do Guamá, 66.076 Belém, PA, Brazil.

Commercial contacts

Clube do Cupu, Av. Duque de Caxias, 2062, Cachoeirinha, 69.000 Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil. (55-92) 234-4242. (Association of producers, sellers and processors).

Compotas Tucano, Cx. Postal 603, 69.011 Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil. (55-92) 651-1917. (Processing industry).

Gelar S.A. Indústrias Alimentícias, Belém, Pará, Brazil. (Processing industry).

PröNatus do Amazonas, R. Visconde de Porto Alegre, 440, Centro, Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil. (55-92) 234-8754, 234-3265. (Beauty products).

Industria São Vicente, Belém, Pará, Brazil (Processing industry).