Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Acai Is Everywhere - Or Will Be Soon

I'm pretty sure that I didn't know anything about açai berries a year ago.

Or if I did, I instantly lumped them into the same "exotic ingredients I'm unlikely to try" category, which also includes mangosteen or goji berry. I thought that, if anything, acai berries were destined to be found only at the funkiest of health food stores, and not at my neighborhood ice cream parlor or watering hole.

But a year later, the small but mighty açai berry has burst onto the mainstream.

Expect to see them in sorbets, cocktails, energy drinks and gels, smoothies, teas, jams, cosmetics, and all sorts of other things. In other words, before long everyone will know that the correct way to pronounce acai is ah-sigh-ee.

Experts now predict that dark purple berries—which taste like a cross between blueberries and chocolate—are likely to follow the same trajectory as pomegranates or green tea, as they become part of the average American pantry.

That's good news, because acai is thought to be one of the world's most healthful foods. Native to Brazil, the berries grow on palm trees in the rainforests. Better still, experts think their popularity could bring a kind of sustainable agriculture option to the farmers in the Amazon, who may prefer to harvest the berries, instead of chop down palm trees.

Acai leapt onto Oprah's radar (and therefore the radar of most of the country) as her No. 1 superfood. They're loaded with antioxidants, amino acids and essential fatty acids.

My question is: Will the potent little berry maintain it's superfood powers once it's revamped as a premium sorbet or infused in a fruity cocktail? I hope so, because I'm far more likely to try acai once its health value has been compromised by sugar, fat, or alcohol.

I doubt they'd still qualify as superfoods, but the second I see it my grocery store freezer, I'm snapping up Haagen-Dazs new Brazilian Acai Berry Sorbet. And I'll happily sample some of the newly-created cocktails, such as an Acai-spiked martini, or mojito (er, make that a Veevito).

In the meantime, there are a lot more truly healthful acai-based options. For instance, there's a new green tea made with acai. Or you can introduce the superfood to your daily diet by blending some acai powder into your smoothie or just drinking some juice.

I'm sure that would be a great way to introduce acai into my day-to-day life. But I doubt it'd be as much fun as a cocktail known as an the Acai Creamsicle.

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