Acai - האסאי
When I was a kid we went berry picking. It wasn't fun. The berries are ripe in July and it is too hot to pick during the day so we had to go late in the afternoon or early evening before dusk (sometime before 10 pm in the height of summer) when the mosquitos are at their hungriest. Mosquitos love Type O blood. I am thus blessed.
All across the Canadian prairies, but especially in Saskatchewan and Manitoba you can find bushes heavy with chokecherries and of course, Saskatoon berries (wild blueberries - very plump, very fine seeds and a gorgeous purple color). Berries in the wild are sour and I could never get used to the commercially grown fruit that are beautiful to look at but taste much the same as the plastic containers they are sold in.
I am mad about berries and it is a great sadness that a tiny, tiny handful of blueberries or black blackberries can cost up to $10 dollars because, of course, they are either imported or grown in a special greenhouse with an outrageous amount of water.
When Acai berries became the rage in New York, I closed my ears. Another miracle food, another anti-oxidant, another very expensive ingredient to add to the well curated diet.
I was not impressed when I began seeing acai berries on offer at the juice stands in Tel Aviv. My own ignorance taking over as usual. Little did I know that that grow here and that walking down the street you can see them in all their glory - right on the tree.
Flowering palms often look alien. Large multi-colored projectiles rise (or sometime fall) from the mother plant and explode into many smaller arms. The fruit hangs down in long tendrils and acai, like dates do not resemble the product we see in the store.
So as my first entry in the Lexicon Herbis, I proudly present האסאי (acai) - pronounced the same in Hebrew as in English. Thought the palm is native to Central and South America, it has found a home here and it can be found fresh, dried, frozen and in every sort of puree and drink imaginable.
Of course, there are mosquitoes here. Big ones with colored wings. And the local bugs seem to like Type O blood as well. Luckily I am not out on the prairie with my pail and my Mom and my cousins knee deep in a prickly bush - though in retrospect, maybe it was just a little bit fun.