The fruits of palms with which people of the temperate regions are best acquainted are dates and coco nuts. But these particular fruits are known chiefly because, besides being available as fruits, they are capable of being transported long distances and of being readily kept for a long time without danger of decay. In their native tropical countries many other palms yield valuable fruits but they do not, as a rule, admit of transportation or delay in using.
In the Amazonas valley especially, the inhabitants make a delightful beverage, known as assaí, from the fruit of the assaí palm (Euterpe oleracea). A stranger visiting the market in Pará for the first time is impressed by the quantities of this thick, purple, chocolate-like fluid on sale. In appearance it is rather repulsive at first, but it improves greatly upon acquaintance. From the fruit of the baccába palm is made a beverage very like that of the assaí. A similar drink, but of a milky color, is made of the fruit of the piassába on the upper Rio
Negro. A drink is make from the mirity palm in quite a different manner: the tree is cut down and a hole cut in the upper side of the prostrate trunk. This opening soon fills with a nearly transparent liquid very like the milk of the coco nut. When allowed to stand and ferment this makes the murity wine—an intoxicating beverage. Along the coast south of Pernambuco, and especially in the State of Bahia, is a palm, known as the dendé, the pulp of whose fruit is used in making oil that is extensively used in cooking. This oil has a bright orange color and is prepared by bruising the pulp of the nuts, putting it in cold water and skimming off the oil as it rises to the surface, after which it is boiled down. Illuminating oil is likewise made from the kernel of the dendé nuts.
Many of the palm nuts are covered by edible pulp. Several species of Bactris bear fruits the size of a walnut whose acid pulp is very pleasant when ripe. In the Amazonas valley is a palm known as the
- This palm, the Mauritia vinifera, is called mirity and murity in the Amazonas region, but further south it is called burity; in the Paraguay valley region it is called mburity.