The Araca, Araca-Boi or Araza is a semi domesticated fruit of the Amazon Basin. It belongs to the Myrtle family, Myrtaceae, which include the Guavas, Grumichama and Jaboticaba.
The Araca prefers well-drained, rich loamy soils but will stand poor soils as long as there is good drainage. In its natural habitat, it receives an average 2800mm of rain with a mean average temperature of 26° C. It grows very well at Yeppoon and districts with less rain and lower temperatures.
It is an ornamental plant which can grow to become a shrub or small tree, 3 - 15 m high. It is very densely-branched, without apical dominance. In other words, it is a dome or round-topped plant. The stem is brown to reddish brown with flaking bark. The young branches are covered with velvety, short brown hairs which are lost when the branches mature.
The leaves are short-petiole, opposite, broad elliptic leaves pointed at the apex. They are 3 to 7 inches [7.5 - 18 cm] long and 1 1/3 to 3 inch [3.4 - 8.25 cm] wide with indented veins on the upper surface. The under surface of the leaves are densely hairy. Both sides of the leaves are faintly dotted with oil glands. New growth is red-tinted, changing to dark green at maturity.
The flowers are in compound axillary racemes. The four petals are white, with 75 to 150 stamens and a single pistil and a multi-locular ovary.
The fruit is an oblate or spherical berry, 2 - 10 cm long and 2 - 12 cm in diameter. It can weigh from 50 to 750 grams. The fruit's skin is light green at first, turning pale orange-yellow when ripe. It has a thin, delicate, velvety skin which covers a juicy, thick, very acid pulp. It contains 8 to 10 kidney-shaped brown seeds about 2.3 cm long and 1.5 cm wide. They fruit in Rockhampton / Yeppoon in June/July. In Peru, there may be 4 crops a year, with the main season being February to May.
The flesh of the Araca is so sour that it is not eaten out of hand. It is used in jellies, drinks and jams. The strong perfume of the fruit is lost when made into juices or cooked products. It is most popularly used as a juice by adding sugar and water to taste. Jelly made with the pulp and seed is delicious as long as it is cooked as fast as possible; about 2 minutes is best.
An easy recipe is one can of sweetened, condensed milk, one can of cream and one can of Araca pulp, all beaten in a blender. This can be eaten as is, or put in a pie shell.
Fruit picked when the skin is green will not ripen normally, but fruit picked when they have started to turn yellow will continue to mature. Care must be taken when handling the fruit, as skin and pulp bruise easily.
To grow new plants, very fresh seeds are best. The germination rate will be higher if this is done. It may take 2 - 8 months to germinate the seeds. The seedling grows quite rapidly, more in width than in height. Well-fertilized, the seedling can start to fruit after 2 - 3 years. No varietal selection has been made. Potassium appears to be an especially important nutrient for the Araca. A spacing of 3 x 3 metres can produce 3 to 5 tonnes per hectare of fruit in the first fruiting year with the right fertilization and rainfall. These figures are based on Brazilian data. The nutritional value is as follows: 7.75 mg Vitamin A, 9.84 mg Vitamin B1 and 7.68 mg of Vitamin C per 100 grams of fresh fruit.
It is a pretty shrub with delightful flowers and a bountiful fruit supply. It is well worth growing for the aroma of the fruit alone.
DATE: November 1997
* * * * * * * * * * * * *