Botanical Name: Astrocaryum vulgare
Species: A. vulgare
*Astrocaryum awarra Vriese
*Astrocaryum guianense Splig. ex Mart.
*Astrocaryum segregatum Drupe
*Astrocaryum tucuma Wallace
*Astrocaryum tucumoides Drupe
Common Names: Tucumã or Tucumã-do-Pará in Brazil (Portuguese), Awara (French) and Wara (Creole) in French Guiana, Wara awara in Guyana (Guyanese Creole), Awara (Arawak, Carib, Sranantonga) or Muru-muru (Paramaccan) in Suriname, Chontilla in Ecuador (Spanish)
Astrocaryum vulgare is native to French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname and the northern Amazonian region of Brazil. It is common in Pará state of Brazil and throughout the Guianas, being very abundant in the populated coastal regions, as well as extremely abundant in the white-sand savanna belt.
Astrocaryum vulgare tree can grow 10–15 m (33–49 ft) in height, although it is usually shorter. In habitus it usually presents as a few to many trunks, each trunk of the same height and width. The trunks grow 15–18 cm in diameter. By growing multiple stems, it regenerates easily after damage.
The palm is covered in vicious spines, the trunk is densely covered in different lengths of black, flattened spines which grow to 12 cm long, and the infructescence is also covered in black, 1–3 cm long spikes. The spadices are held erect, and the inner spathe is two metres long, sometimes more.
The fruit is an orange-coloured, round or roundish drupe, with a shortly pointed apex. The fruit is contained in a cupule (like an acorn), this is flat, some 1 by 2 cm, and laciniate-crenulate at its margin. The fruit has an oily, fibrous-fleshy, yellow or yellow-orange pulp, On average, the fruit weighs about 30 g (1 oz), and is some 4.5 by 3-3.5 cm in size. It contains a large nut with a very hard woody shell, which is almost black in color. The nut contains an oily white substance. The nut (a pyrene) is usually narrowed to the base and one-seeded, although it may also be globose in shape if it contains two seeds. The shell is 3mm thick.
Astrocaryum vulgare is a plant of the moist tropical lowlands, where it is found at elevations up to 150 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 20 – 28°c, but can tolerate 18 – 30°c. It can be killed by temperatures of 2°c or lower. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,300 – 1,800mm, but tolerates 1,000 – 3,000 mm.
Requires a sunny, sheltered position. Seedlings require some shade, whilst larger palms thrive in full sun. Plants do not like dry conditions at their roots. Prefers a pH in the range 5 – 7, tolerating 4 – 8.
Plants regrow very vigorously from their roots after being cut down or after a fire. They are considered to be a serious weed species of pasture land.
Young plants have a moderate rate of growth.
Although usually spiny, occasional spineless forms exist in nature.
The seed is enclosed in a hard endocarp which makes germination slow and erratic, and also has a short viability in storage. It may benefit from scarification before sowing to speed up germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 – 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen – if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing. It is best to sow the seed as soon as it is ripe in a partially shaded position in a nursery seedbed or in individual containers. A high germination rate can usually be expected, with the seed sprouting within 90 – 150 days. When the seedbed-sown seedlings are 5 – 8cm tall, pot them up into individual containers and they should be ready to plant out 6 – 9 months later.
Fruit is eaten raw. Slightly sweet. A flavour similar to apricots. Used for making juices. The mesocarp is rich in provitamin A; it provides a fatty, mashed pulp that is used to prepare the very popular French Guianan dish ‘bouillon d’awara’, which is traditionally eaten at Easter time. The orange-red, globose to ovoid fruit is 35 – 45mm long and 25 – 35mm wide with a fleshy mesocarp covering a single large seed.
After harvesting, the fruits are stored for 3 days in sacks to ripen and allow the pulp soften slightly. They must then be eaten within 3 – 4 days before they dry and rot where bruised.
The immature endosperm gives a juice called vino de tucuma, used for a drink or in culinary preparations.
An excellent oil, used for cooking, can be obtained from the fruits. Similar to coconut oil.
The seed contains a hard white substance from which a fine edible fat can be extracted. The seed contains 30 – 50% oil.
The fruits and seeds of various species in this genus are reported to be used for oil production in the Amazon region. Existing analyses of fruit fat content show a relatively homogeneous composition among the different species, with around. 20% of fat content in the mesocarp, mostly composed of oleic and palm itic acids, and 20 – 35% of fat content in the endosperm, with a predominance of lauric acid.
The palm heart (the inner core and growing bud of the plant) is harvested. It provides a crispy food, rich in nutrients, that can be eaten raw or cooked. Harvesting the heart will lead to the death of the stem it was harvested from, though in multi-stemmed plants such as this the rest of the plant will continue to grow and often produce new stems.
A wine is made from the fermented sap of the spathe.
A decoction of the root is used to treat furunculosis and syphilis.
The oil from the seed is laxative. It is used to treat rheumatism, pain and earache. It is used in a preparation for treating furuncles and is also swabbed onto aching feet and rubbed on feverish people to assist perspiration.
The fruit can be utilized against the eye disease xerophthalmia (also called ophthalmoxerosis) of which the deficiency of vitamin A is the main reason.
The whole fruit is used to calm colicky babies.
The pulp of the fruit is used to treat coughs and as a breath freshener.
An oil can be obtained from the fruits. It is used in soap making.
A fine, soft, strong and durable fibre can be obtained from the unopened leaves. It is used for weaving and cordage. It is said to be the strongest fibre that can be produced in Amazonia and is widely used for making hammocks, ropes, bags, clothes etc. The fibre is resistant to rot and damage and was therefore in use on sail- ships in the earlier centuries.
A fibre can be extracted from the petiole after soaking it in water.
The leaflets are used in making baskets.
The shell of the kernel is used for making handicrafts such as rings, bracelets and collars.
The oils extracted from the fruit and the seed are used as ingredients in commercial cosmetic preparations as emollients and skin conditioners.
The wood is moderately heavy, very hard, strong and durable. It is used locally in making houses. The stems are used as poles for fences, corrals, and rural housing.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.