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The fruit of a woody climbing shrub, guaraná is a round orange-red capsule about 1 inch in diameter. When ripe, the capsule splits partially open, revealing a black seed covered with white flesh only on its innermost side. The edible portion, the seed with the white flesh removed, is rich in caffeine.

Guaraná is one of the best loved fruits in Brazil and much folklore is based around it. The fruit has an uncanny resemblance to the human eye as it "peers" out of its opened bright orange-red capsule.

A legend of the Sataré Maué Indians explains why the seeds resemble eyes.  A beautiful Indian woman named Onhiauacabe gave birth toa child sired by a mysterious being. This child was killed for eating some forbidden nuts, and at his burial site a guaraná bush grew from his eye. According to the legend, the bush also brought forth a child from whom the Maué tribed descended.

Ingesting the seeds produces high energy levels, which the Indians attributed to supernatural powers, but which we now know is the effect of caffeine.

To the Indians, the seeds were not only a stimulant, they were an aphrodisiac and a means to prolong life.  They roasted and ground the seeds, mixed them with manioc meal, and rolled the resulting paste into sticks, which were allowed to harden.  Using the rough-surfaced tongue of the pirarucu fish as a grater, they broke off small pieces of the dried
guaraná paste and rehydrated them in water to make a dried.

Guaraná is available today in a variety of forms, including a very popular carbonated soft drink of the same name, a syrup, a powder, in capsules and in sticks ade by the caboclos.

Eat Smart in Brazil
Eat Smart in Brazil
How to Decipher the Menu, Know the Market Foods & Embark on a Tasting Adventure
by Joan Peterson
Ginkgo Press, 2006

This distinctively useful travel guide offers a culinary history of Brazil and descriptions of its regional cuisines.  An encyclopedic directory of Brazilian menu items is included in the back of the book along with a glossary that translates the meaning of  words and phrases like refeição completa (home-made food) and cerveja bem gelada (well-chilled beer).

A recent entry in the Eat Smart series by Gingko Press, the purpose of the book is to help travelers eat and drink like the locals and get to the heart of the culture through its cuisine.

"My intention is to enable the traveler to decipher the menu with confidence and shop or browse in the supermarkets and in the fascinating, lively outdoor food and spice markets with greater knowledge," author Joan Peterson explains. "A number of the vegetables and many of the extraordinary tropical fruits in Brazil appear nowhere else but in these outdoor markets."

Guarana Soda
Guarana Soda

Guarana Seed Powder
Guarana Seed Powder



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