What is Pequi and what is it for?

What is pequi

Brazilian Caryocar is the scientific name of this strange fruit called, pequi or souari nut.  Pequi is derived from the word “pyqui” which means shell and hawthorn. It is a plant-flower species from Cerrado, Brazil.

Other names given to this fruit are thorny chestnut, piqui, cashew and jigua. The souari nut is a typical and popular fruit of some states of Brazil, such as Minas Gerais and Goiás.

The fruit is not only used in the culinary art of this extraordinary country but also widely used medicinally by the indigenous tribes of the Cerrado region.

These indigenous people are an important key to spreading this plant since they were the ones who planted the pequi around their villages when deforestation in the Brazilian savannas was at its greatest point of environmental destruction.        

Origin and current growing

As we already mentioned this fruit comes from Brazil, specifically from Cerrado, which is a natural region that covers a very large part of the country, but it also grows in small parts to the northeast of Paraguay, and the east of Bolivia.

Since the last decade, an indigenous tribe called Kisêdjê has been in charge of planting, caring for and harvesting pequi trees.

The tree is not so demanding in terms of soil, it can germinate as long as it is good soil. The fruit needs sun and moisture to grow healthy and strong.  

The pequiseiro (pequi tree) blooms from June to October and bears fruit from August to January. 

The fruit of the pequi lasts for 3 to 5 days when the skin begins to soften, and they are usually harvested from the ground.

To see more detailed information about the cultivation and planting of pequi, I recommend you see the link.

Physical characteristics

The souari nut takes 5 to 6 months of development and growth, where it changes its colour from purple, to dark green, and then to light green. Its pulp is yellow.

The mesocarp is a very intense shade of yellow and has an extremely oily texture.

Many people consider this fruit one of the most dangerous to eat since inside its seed they have embedded thorns that are easily stuck in the gums of the mouth.

The trunk and roots of their tree are very strong, and they have some facilitator friends, these are the bats. They facilitate pollination for these trees.

The tree can measure is 9 meters long. As for the leaves, they are trifoliate and measure about 2 to 3 centimetres wide. Its flowers contain androecium and gynoecium at the same time (hermaphrodites) measuring 8 centimetres wide of five petals each.

Taste

When consumed they have a mixture of flavours, both their aroma is characteristic and very peculiar.

Its pulp has a strangely citrus flavour, and at the same time very similar to the Brazil nut.

Nutritional information

Pequi has a wide variety of vitamins, therefore, it is an excellent fruit to consume daily. In the table, we will show you how many vitamins and nutrients this rich nut provides (100g based). 

Proteins2.3 g
Carbohydrates13 g
Soluble fiber0.1 g
Dietary fiber19 g
Vitamin C8.3 mg
Calcium32.4 mg
Vitamin B60.1 mg
Manganese0.6 mg
Magnesium29.8 mg
Lipids18.0 g
Phosphorus33.8 mg
Iron0.3 mg
Potassium297.8 mg
Copper0.2 ug
Zinc1 mg
Vitamin B32.6 mg
Vitamin B10.2 mg
Vitamin B20.5 mg

Properties and benefits

Pequi is a medicinal fruit and has a high oil content with medicinal and nutritional properties, but it is very caloric, so it is used as a source of energy, in addition to being highly appreciated for its characteristic flavour and aroma. The pulp has a high content of carotenoids.

The phase where the skin begins to soften is the one with the best nutritional levels, proteins, lipids, carotenoids, lycopene and vitamin A.

It has properties and vitamins that when consumed help us prevent any type of degeneration in the eyesight. 

In the decade of the 40s, fruit oil was used in the preparation of syrups, folk remedies and oils for the treatment of diseases of the respiratory system.

It is quite widespread in the folk medicine of Brazil and its regions the use of pequi oil added to honey against colds, flu and bronchitis.

Information and studies such as these are authorized and administered by the Instituto de Pesquisas Jardín Botánico do Rio de Janeiro. [1] [2]

Uses

In addition to the medicinal aspect, this oil is used in the food and cosmetic industry for the manufacture of creams and soaps.

It is one of the most important plants for the food of rural man and that is gaining more and more prominence in the menus of restaurants of typical food of the Brazilian Cerrado region.

It is not only typical food for the people of the region, and nearby cities. It is also the daily bread of wild birds and many other living things.

For Brazilians who live in nearby regions where the fruit is grown, it is an essential ingredient for their recipes, such as rice with pequi.

Pulp

From the pulp, they extract an edible oil that they sell throughout almost all of Brazil.

The pericarp has a good concentration of pectin. In the commodities industry, there are already pequi products, such as canned pulp.

This same oil is classified and processed to add to creams, shampoos, moisturizers, and facial and body products nationwide; where they have also wanted to open their borders to market them internationally.

From the pulp, a content of 3 to 5% of crude protein was obtained, being the seeds even richer with 28%.

An analysis found that the high content of dietary fiber, phenolic compounds and carotenoids prevent the oxidative process.

Leaves

Its leaves are used to fight respiratory diseases, such as bronchitis and asthma.

Also, they are rich in tannin, provide a dye substance, used by the seamstresses of the region.

Oil

Pequi pulp oil has monounsaturated and saturated acids, such as palmitic acid, and polyunsaturated, to a lesser extent, linoleic acid with 2%.

Root

The roots lend themselves to the preparation of frames for small boats. Its wood is very resistant, it is used as a source of steel coal.


[1] http://reflora.jbrj.gov.br/jabot/floradobrasil/FB6688

[2] https://www.procisur.org.uy/adjuntos/procisur_pequi_07b.pdf

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