Latin name: Mauritia flexuosa
Vernacular name: Aguaje. Sometimes called buriti (on Brazilian border), or canangucho (Colombian border). There are several varieties, such as “shambo” and ìshambo azulî.
The fruit is eaten, usually soaked in water to soften the oily mesocarp, which is the edible part. It is made into a drink- “aguajina”. Where freezers exist, it is made into popsicles “chupetes”, “cur’chi”, and a number of frozen treats. There is a large market for this in Iquitos. The fruit can have up to three seeds, which soften during germination and become sweet, and children often eat this. Many people believe that aguaje contains large amounts of estrogen,and that males should limit their consumption of the fruit. Aguaje fronds make an excellent, heavy duty thatch, but the weight of the thatch usually discourages people from using it. They are also used for fiber and crafts. The large petioles are used for making light walls (“esteras”) and other crafts. The trunk can be split, the spongy cortex removed, and used for fencing. Rotten aguaje trunks are home to “suri” larvae (Rhynchophorus palmarum), which are eaten or sold. Suri have several medicinal and spiritual uses.
Aguaje should be planted at least eight meters apart, preferably ten meters, and kept free of weeds, in full sun. This dioecious species grows slowly, and can be mixed with many other tree and crop species as long as it is not under shade. It tolerates some flooding, and will mature in about ten to fifteen years. Several mature male palms should be kept in the field to help maintain good fruit production from the females. Aguaje palms are commonly protected in homegardens and around villages, where they grow from discarded seeds. Due to concerns over the destruction of aguaje in the wild, the planting of aguaje in agroforestry systems is now being promoted throughout the region. RCF is a pioneer in these efforts. For more information on the RCF aguaje project, check the RCF website.