Copoazú, an undiscovered pleasure
Bogotá D. C., jul. 19 de 2012 - Agencia de Noticias UN- An indescribably exotic, and promising Amazonian fruit, which is a wild cousin of cocoa, is on the verge of conquering new markets.
We are looking for new consumers in order to entice them with its intense taste and aroma, as well as companies so that they could develop marketing strategies for already existing products.
People’s taste buds are going to experience three previously unknown ice cream flavors which are now being revealed at a gourmet restaurant in Bogotá. The frosty cream lies over your tongue without fully revealing each underlying subtle fruit component.
Translating this sensation into words is impossible, but your sense of taste gradually learns to recognize which is which. The arazá, the camu-camu and the copoazú are Amazonian fruits which many have never heard of before and, very few have had the delight of tasting as they are only available in very few exotic places.
In the case of the copoazú (‘big cocoa’, in the tupí language), it’s virtually unknown, and has hardly even been promoted-Not even in the producing provinces of Guaviare, Caquetá, Putumayo and Amazonas is it really consumed on any large scale. Besides its marketing has barely transcended the local area, although there are some current initiatives to produce some new products from the pulp, such as yogurts, juices, preserves and candies and from the seeds, a cocoa-like liquor, similar to chocolate, which is called chocoazú.
However, the product is readily available in Brazil, and it is traditionally sold from umbrella carts in the form of sherbet. It’s popular in Brazil, as they have been commercializing the product for many years.
Discovering this fruit and making it a part of the bio-marketing future of the area has so far been a slow process in here in Colombia. Nevertheless, currently there are 60 hectares of copoazú planted amongst rubber trees and other harvestable trees, as an alternative to illicit crops.
Currently there are some by-products being marketed thanks to a strategic alliance amongst growers, companies, and research centers, such as the Amazonian Scientific Research Institute (SINCHI for its Spanish acronym), and Universities such as the Universidad Nacional de Colombia.
A technology transfer program has been used to gain the current success the program enjoys. People from all around the region have been trained under these programs, as well as have some postgraduate students, including a currently operating bi-national project involving Venezuela.
In this manner the research groups, the Amazonian Promising Fruit (from SINCHI), and the Stress Physiology and UN Plant and Microorganism Biodiversity have collaborated to better define the characteristics of this fruit, as well as its agricultural management, focusing on diseases, pests, pre-harvesting, post-harvesting and processing. Professors María Soledad Hernández from the Food Science and Technology Institute (ICTA, for its Spanish acronym) and Luz Marina Melgarejo, from the UN Biology Department have written several articles on these subjects.
Their research on the Province of Guaviare crops have been supplemented by the research of Claudia Estella Hernández, a Chemical Engineer in the Province of Caquetá, who is currently working on her thesis as part of her Master’s degree studies in biological sciences. Both projects have been key the further understanding of the copoazú ripening indicators under the prevailing environmental conditions in these provinces, as well as to domesticating the species.
Therefore, after determining the optimal fruit harvest timing, which was determined to be 117 days after blooming, for the Caquetá variety, several processes have been standardized allowing for maximized production, and lengthening of their useful lives.
The SINCHI group has gathered three harvests of the Theobroma genus (‘Gods Delicacy’) from the region, recording different varieties or accessions of three types of known “cocoas”: copoazú (Theobroma grandiflorum), cacao (Theobroma cacao) and maraco (Theobroma bicolor), another Amazonian species.
Performing a characterization and comparing all of the Theobroma species molecularly could be an important step in finding more environmentally resistant varieties, and improving production. Hernández, Melgarejo, and their research teams, have already partially characterized the copoazú and have found more varieties which are highly resistant to the “witches broom” disease, which is caused by the Crinipellis perniciosa fungus, a typical phytosanitary problem common to the whole genus, which limits its productivity.
The potential of the copoazú isn’t just limited to the food industry, as it could also be successfully utilized in the cosmetics and biofuel industries, which would utilize 100% of the fruit. Regarding its nutritional benefits, the pulp has a high Vitamin C and antioxidant content, in addition to pectin (beneficial for the digestive system), phosphorus, iron and calcium. Starch (15%) can be obtained by drying and extracting its fatty content.
After removing the pulp, almonds are extracted from the seeds, which have a high percentage of protein, and are then transformed into chocoazú. To do this, it is necessary to ferment the almonds, thereby producing a cocoa like liquor as a by-product, then drying, roasting and grinding.
Chocoazú could be used in making candy bars, it is soft, and has a very pleasant aroma, similar to fine chocolates. It contains polyphenols, which, according to research, reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease, as well as unsaturated fatty acids, a source of omega 3 and 6, in a higher content than exists in cocoa.
According to Raquel Díaz, UN master’s degree candidate, the aromatic fat found within the seeds have a melting point of 32º C (89.6º F) slightly below the human body temperature. Therefore, when in contact with human flesh, it turns into liquid, and has a moisturizing power ten times greater than that of lanolin (a natural wax). As a result, Brazil, has enjoyed great success in exporting it to European cosmetics companies.
Preserving its characteristics (taste, color, and aroma) and beneficial health substances, is the primary goal of the UN-Manizales Biotechnology and Agribusiness Institute (IBA, for its Spanish acronym) which is headed by professor Carlos Eduardo Orrego. Thereby they can obtain dehydrated powders by using lyophilization techniques, by drying it at very low pressures and temperatures.
Read the article in Spanish at UN Periódico No. 156: http://www.unperiodico.unal.edu.co/dper/article/copoazu-un-placer-que-permanece-oculto.html.
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