December 28, 2016

Indigenous ingredient of the month – Maqui berry

The Maqui berry is yet another South American wonder food, and has at last come to the Western market following in the footsteps of the açai and pomegranate for its high beneficial properties.

The Maqui berry comes from the plant of the Elaeocarpaceae family native to Chile and Argentina. It is a small tree evergreen tree which reaches a height of up to 4m. Its dark green leaves are opposite and oval and its flowers are unisexual, greenish and large. Then the tree bears purple maqui berry fruits 4mm to 6 mm in diameter containing 4 to 8 angular seeds.

Fresh maqui berries and infusions of maqui leaves have for centuries been used in the traditional native herbal medicine by Mapuche Indians of Chile across to the Chiloé Islands and down to Patagonia in the East. It had many therapeutic uses and now is an ingredient in health drinks. The berries promoted strength and stamina and were used to treat ailments such as sore throat, diarrohea, ulcers and fever or constipation.

Maqui berries have the highest known antioxidant level of all fruits, almost three times higher than that of açai berries. You can also make it into Maqui wine using the same techniques as grape wine (fermentation).

It is a great juice for detox and promotes weight loss (as also do apples!).

The berries contain phytochemicals of Anthocyanins, Delphinidin, Malvidin, Petunidin, Cumarins, Triterpenes, Flavonoids, Cyanidin. The anthocyanins in maqui berries protect low density lipoproteins from oxidation, reduce inflammation and help to protect our cells from oxidative stress.

There are Maqui berries in pill form sold in health food stores but I am not a big fan of processing all this stuff especially as weight loss aids when grape juice of which there is a glut in Australia, could work as well and its food miles are way less.

However, it’s interesting to look at these ingredients as they are added to a lot of food these day

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