Araza is a small to medium-sized edible fruit originating in Western Amazon. It is a nutritious tropical fruit with many culinary applications due to its tart, acidic taste, and floral scent.
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What is Araza?
Araza (Eugenia stipitata) is a tropical fruit growing on a bushy tree in the Myrtaceae (guava) family. It also goes by other common names, including Amazonian pear, Araçá and Araçá-boi (in Portuguese), Arazá (in Spanish), and Membrio (in Ecuador).
Araza is a spherical, pale green to bright yellow fruit measuring 1-4.5 inches (2.5-11.5 cm) in diameter. It has thin, velvety, and easily-damaged skin; however, its flesh is thick, comprising a juicy, aromatic pulp with around 12 seeds.
Most people find the araza fruit unpalatable due to its sour, acidic, or tart flavor. The araza tree is also unpopular and underutilized since it mainly thrives in the wild and is planted by indigenous people in remote areas.
The History of Araza
Araza is native to the western Amazon region, mainly from Brazil to Colombia. The fruit tree has also grown in wild plantations in Ecuador, Uruguay, and Peru, especially between the Marañón and Ucayali Rivers since ancient times.
Historically, the araza fruit has found aesthetic and cosmetic use among indigenous communities due to its aromatic floral scent. For instance, it was used as a natural air freshener in Colombia. Later, the fruit and its extracts found their way into body creams, moisturizers, oils, and perfumes.
Araza fruit has also had culinary use by native communities in South America, mainly consumed as juice.
Today, araza trees are cultivated for commercial purposes in Columbia. The fruits are sold fresh in local markets. The pulp is processed, frozen, and shipped to larger cities in South America.
Recently, growers’ associations started to export unripe araza fruits to UK and US, and the fruit trees are now being planted for research in botanical gardens in California and Southeast Asia.
What Does Araza Taste Like?
Some people enjoy eating the fruit raw, while others can only consume araza after sprinkling sugar or salt.
When cooked, araza adds a distinct flavor to sweet and savory dishes. That’s why it’s an excellent addition to baked and unbaked desserts.
How to Tell When Araza is Ripe
It’s pretty easy to tell when araza is ripe since it turns from pale green to bright yellow. And the fruit becomes soft and slightly gives in when pressed gently. Ripe araza fruits also have a distinct tropical fragrance you’ll detect from afar.
However, it spoils quickly after ripening. So, it’s best to harvest it while still green and firm. Avoid soft or bruised fruits when shopping for fresh araza, as they could be spoilt.
Can I Eat Raw Araza?
Yes, you can eat this fruit in its raw form, though it’s typically considered too sour. You could add some sugar to sweeten the fruit.
There’s an array of applications for the raw fruit. For example, you can blend it into juices, nectars, and ice cream. The ripe fruit could also be used as a topping in salads, slaws, side dishes, and yogurt.
In Colombia, araza is mixed with milk, water, and milk to make smoothies, fruit juices, or soft drinks. It’s also stirred into brandy with crushed ice to prepare a specialty cocktail.
Cooking with Araza
Here’s how to prepare araza fruit before cooking:
- Wash the ripe fruit carefully.
- Cut it in half.
- Remove the seed.
- Remove the skin (it peels away quickly).
You can now use the deseeded fruit to make jellies, marmalades, pastes, syrups, and preserves. It’s also an excellent addition to baked goods like pies or tart filling.
Here are a few recipes that use araza fruit:
Tangerine and Araza Pudding: This yummy dessert only requires condensed milk, araza fruit pulp, tangerine juice, two eggs, and sugar. And it’s so easy to prepare that it will only take several minutes to enjoy this delightful pudding.
Araza Fruit Hot Pepper Jelly: Here is a hot jelly to tease your taste buds. It features araza fruit, habanero pepper, lime, sugar, and apple cider vinegar.
Araza Fruit Smoothie: Blend araza fruit with your preferred super-sweet fruit(s) to make this refreshing smoothie. You can use a banana or mango in this case. Alternatively, sweeten your smoothie with honey or fruit yogurt.
How to Store Araza
Since they have thin, delicate skin, araza fruits spoil quickly, so it’s best to consume or use them within three days post-ripening. But you can also refrigerate the whole, unwashed fruit for up to five days if you don’t want to consume it all.
Alternatively, scoop the pulp, keep it in a plastic bag, and freeze it to extend its shelf life. Processing the ripe fruit into jams, jellies, sauces, and preserves is also a great way to keep this fruit for months.
Nutritional Benefits of Araza
Araza fruits contain many nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, proteins, sugars, and dietary fiber. Recent studies have looked into the potential health benefits of araza due to the fruit’s composition of phytochemicals, such as phenolic acids and flavonoids.
Araza has a high Vitamin C content – twice the amount in oranges. The antioxidant promotes healthy skin and improves the immune system.
Vitamin A is essential in visual health and promotes immunity, growth, and development. Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is a vital nutrient supporting various metabolic processes.
Proteins found within araza build lean muscles and are essential in producing hormones. And the minerals, including calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, nitrogen, and zinc, support various body functions.
Where to Purchase Araza
Araza is a rare fruit since it’s primarily grown in its native regions. It’s harvested four times a year and available all year round in supermarkets and growers’ associations in South America.
So you can only purchase it from online retailers who deal with specialty exotic fruits. Araza fruit seeds are also available in online stores like Etsy if you wish to plant this fruit tree in your backyard.