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Camu-camu berries are the fruit of the camu-camu tree native to the Amazon rainforest of Peru and Brazil. They have a red or purple skin, white flesh, and large seeds. Though they resemble the cherry in appearance, they are much more sour and are not usually eaten plain.
The indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest have harvested and cultivated camu-camu berries since before the arrival of Europeans. In recent decades, the fruit has become popular in foreign markets, most notably in Japan. These berries have a high Vitamin C content, bioflavanoids, and amino acids, and are therefore sometimes used to produce a dietary supplement in capsule or powder form. While they are not the most flavorful of berries, they have an appealing aroma and color. They are often used as an ingredient in ice cream, candy, or similar dishes rather than being eaten plain.
Camu-camu berries are easy to cultivate, and the camu-camu tree will grow in tropical and subtropical climates. The plant requires lots of water, but will withstand flooding and fairly cold temperatures, though not frost. The berries will begin growing when the tree is between four and six years old, and they appear once each year. Camu-camu trees can continue to bear fruit for decades.
Though camu-camu berries are becoming more popular outside of their native habitat, there are some barriers to their success in the market. They are quite expensive and therefore have a difficult time competing with other sources of Vitamin C and more flavorful fruits. Exacerbating this problem is the plant's lack of visibility in foreign markets.
Most camu-camu berries are harvested from wild plants, making supply and prices erratic. In addition, wild camu-camu trees are being heavily harvested and may become endangered. While growing commercial crops may alleviate this problem, it may also negatively affect indigenous populations who make a living harvesting the wild fruit.
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