How to grow Guarana
Guarana (Paullinia cupana Kunth.) Is an evergreen climbing shrub native to the Amazon rainforest.
Guarana is a plant cultivated and consumed by indigenous peoples long before the arrival of Europeans and in numerous legends about the birth of those peoples it was considered a sacred plant.
This plant was consumed, since ancient times, especially for energy and healing purposes. Traditionally, the shell was removed, then the seeds were repeatedly washed. These were then reduced to a very fine powder, finally pressed to form cylinders, suitable for storage. The product thus obtained is known as guarana bread or Brazilian cocoa: it could be used for infusions in sugary hot water, taken as drinks.
Furthermore, Guarana played a very important role in the culture of the Tupi and Guaranì populations of Brazil, especially for the appearance of the open fruits, similar to the eyes.
According to one of the most widespread myths, the plant was domesticated following the killing, by a snake, of a child loved by the community. Their God, given the inconsolable suffering of the population, took the boy’s right eye and buried him in the forest. Guarana was born from this, capable of giving strength and joy to those who ate it.
As for its traditional cultivation, this is widespread almost exclusively in the humid forests of the Brazilian Amazon, although small plots are currently also present in Argentina.
The cultivation takes place mainly in association with that of the cassava, since they grow at different heights and thus manage to occupy the same land without competing.
On average, one hectare of cultivation produces 130 kg of grains.
Unfortunately, due to the increase in the demand for guarana, in recent years, especially for herbal purposes, cultivation has increased at the expense of a very dangerous deforestation.
We immediately clarify that the cultivation of Guarana is very difficult as it requires high atmospheric humidity values (above 70%), temperatures above 20 ° C, exposure in full sun and high altitudes.
For this reason, in Italy, it can be grown practically only in a greenhouse and respecting the above conditions.
The plant also prefers acidic soils, with a pH between 3.5 and 4.5.
If you can get seeds, which is not easy, you need to know that they maintain germination only for about 72 hours, after which it drastically decays, and it can take up to 100 days before germinating and issuing the first leaves. To speed up the germination slightly, we can keep the seeds in lukewarm water for 24 hours before sowing.
For the preparation of the seedbed you can also proceed using pots with a diameter of at least 10 cm, prepared with soil for sowing, which must be thoroughly wet, creating 2 – 4 holes at a depth of 1 cm, inside which a seed per hole and covering and compacting well.
The sowing substrate must be kept constantly humid, maintaining good ventilation in the environment, to avoid the onset of mold, and always ensuring a minimum temperature of around 20 ° C.
For the transplant phase, wait for the young Guarana seedlings to have issued the third leaflet, being careful not to damage the roots.
As we said, the substrate where we transplant must have a pH between 3.5 and 4.5.
To ensure optimal growth conditions, it will be necessary to irrigate and vaporize the leaf system with possibly demineralized water, taking into account that with increasing temperatures, humidity must increase.
When transplanting, the shrub must also be equipped with a brace to cling to, possibly choosing one made of natural material (sticks in coconut fiber or peat) which helps to maintain high humidity.
Also important is the choice of exposure which must be very sunny and ensure constant heat.
Finally, the pruning and fruit picking operations.
Pruning must be done to keep the plant always clean and clean from old, weak or diseased branches; this also because Guarana blooms on new branches and therefore it is good to eliminate those that have previously produced, thus stimulating even a thicker growth.
It should also be remembered that flowering and fruiting take place from the second year, in spring.
To have a good harvest, however, you have to wait several years, so that the panels become large.
Harvesting, which is completely manual even in the areas of origin, generally begins in November, when the seeds are gradually maturing, to end in January-February.
The collected product is kept for a few days in jute or hemp bags, where it begins to ferment. This process has the effect of increasing the rate of caffeine in the seeds.
The harvest must follow the washing phase to free the seeds from the shell, which is recovered and used as fertilizer for the same lands.
At this point the fruits, after drying, must be dried over a fire until the residual humidity is less than 7%. This is a long and very delicate operation, which requires continuous surveillance to avoid excess heat and consequently to toast the Guarana which would cause the loss of many active ingredients.
It is precisely at the end of this delicate process that Guarana grains become dark and soft and can be packed and shipped for various uses.