The New International Encyclopædia/Assai

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ASSAI, ȧs-sī' (from the native Brazilian name of the palm-tree). A beverage much used at Pará and other places on the Amazon. It is prepared from the fruit of certain species of palm nearly allied to the cabbage palm of the West Indies. (See Areca; and Cabbage Palm.) The assai palms are remarkably slender trees, the most common species (Euterpe edulis) rising to the height of 60 or 80 feet, with a smooth stem only about 4 inches in diameter. The fruit is small, but is produced in great quantity upon branched spadices, which are thrown out horizontally beneath the crown of leaves. It consists of a hard seed, with a very thin covering of a firm pulp or flesh. The tree grows in swamps flooded by the high tides. Warm water is poured upon the fruit; and by rubbing and kneading, a liquid is procured, consisting simply of the pulp of the fruit and water, which is constantly sold in the streets of Pará, and of which the inhabitants are extremely fond. This is assai. It is a thick, creamy liquid, of a purplish color, and a flavor like that of a freshly gathered nut. It is commonly used with the bread made from Manioc (q.v.), called farina, and either with or without sugar. The stem of the assai palm is sometimes used for poles and rafters, and its terminal bud as a cabbage or as a salad with, oil and vinegar; but it is too much valued upon account of its fruit to be often cut down for these purposes. Another species, Euterpe catinga, is found in forests of a dry, sandy soil and very peculiar vegetation, known as catinga forests. The beverage made from it is sweeter than the common kind, but the product of the tree is much smaller.