Growing Acai Berries: Soil and Climate
Acai berries have garnered a great deal of attention in the news and among health advocates of late. This wonder berry is being touted as the latest weight loss product and a source of vital phytochemicals. There are many reasons to think about growing your own acai berries, including the cost of buying imported berry products outright or to simply take advantage of getting the fruit when it is harvested.
What is Acai?
The acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) berry is a fruit from a palm tree that is grown in the subtropic regions of Central and South America. As with other superfoods, acai berries have been found to be a source of vital and important antioxidents, phytochemicals, and polyphenols. These biochemicals are important because they clean the bloodstream and body of free radicals. As a result of eating and drinking superfoods like acai, it is possible to improve weight management and take advantage of the anti-aging aspect of these super chemicals.
Acai palms usually begin to produce fruit in year three to five of growth. Generally, this is when the plant reaches a height of approximately eight to ten feet tall. As the tree grows, smaller sucker stalks will begin to appear around the base of the primary palm tree. These smaller trees will also produce acai berries. Given that the primary tree can grow to extreme heights, some growers choose to cut the primary tree and leave the smaller trees. The primary tree can be harvested for its delicious center, “heart of palm,” which can be used in salads.
Acai palm trees are native to a subtropical climate, as mentioned previously, so they are hardy to temperatures as low as 50 degrees, but do not tolerate lower temperatures well. The preferred daily temperature is at least 70 degrees. As a result, if you are planning on growing one in your home, you need to either live in a warm, humid climate, or you need to be able to recreate one in a greenhouse.
You can initially build a greenhouse to accommodate the acai tree, since they only grow to approximately five feet in the first three years; a plant that is one year old averages a height of about three feet tall. However, it is important to point out that acai palm trees can grow up to 100 feet in height in their natural environment. If this height is not possible to accommodate in your particular situation, then you will want to think about how to moderate the height by planting the palm in a container, which will restrict height, or trimming the primary stalk and depending on the smaller sucker stalks for fruit production.
Acai palms like an organic acidic soil that imitates that of their native Amazon rainforest soil. If growing a tree at home, amend the soil with organics that are acid rich, like peat, moss, and pine needles. Also, make sure that the soil drains well since the trees do not do well if their roots are left wet. If you're planting your trees in a container, make sure there is adequate drainage at the bottom of the container and keep in mind that acai palms are fast growers, so you may need to replant them every six to eight months as they outgrow the containers.
Acai berries have become one of the latest superfoods, yet it can be difficult to obtain fresh berries outside of their domestic area. Fortunately, it is entirely possible to grow acai palm trees at home and harvest the berries, although it requires patience, know-how, and the space to grow the trees.