Have you ever wondered where Brazil nuts come from or how they are harvested? This unique nut has a colourful history and origin. Here is how Brazil nuts make it from the forest to your kitchen.
Did you know that Brazil nuts are one of the most important products sourced from the Amazon that isn’t timber? Grown in South America along the Amazon and Rio Negro rivers, Brazil nuts are harvested in Brazil, as well as Peru, Bolivia, Columbia and Venezuela.
While it is actually a seed, rather than a nut, Brazil nuts come from the Brazil nut tree, which is also known as Bertholletia Excelsa. These giant trees tower above the rainforest canopy at massive heights of up to 160 feet tall and can live for as long as 1000 years.
How Brazil nuts are harvested
Brazil nut trees are commonly spread throughout the Amazon and the nuts are unique because they are harvested in the wild. During the wet season, which is from January to March, Brazil nut collectors, which are also known as castaneros collect the Brazil nut fruit.
Weighing up to 5 pounds each and similar in appearance as a wooden cannon ball, Brazil nut fruit is large and has a tough exterior. Each one contains about 20 nuts which have individual shells that are segmented similar to oranges. Due to the large size of Brazil nut trees, an established tree can drop as many as 300 fruits, which is 6000 seeds per tree. Due to the large and heavy size, and because they fall from a significant height, the Brazil nut fruit can occasionally harm people or vehicles and have even been known to clog waterways.
Attempts to grow Brazil nut trees outside the Amazon, such on plantations have been largely unsuccessful since the tree requires certain species of bees to pollinate the flowers in order to produce fruit.
Brazil nut trees continue to grow with the help of a unique rodent, the South American agouti. The agouti breaks apart the hard Brazil nut shells and after eating, buries some of the remaining seeds helping to continue Brazil nut trees reproduction.
Workers collect the Brazil nut fruit from the forest floor, harvest the seeds using machetes and then carry them out of the forest where they are transported by boat to processing plants. After processing, Brazil nuts are exported to many countries around the world.
How are Brazil nuts used?
A powerful nutritional source of protein, fiber, good fats and fiber, Brazil nuts are packed with nutrients. Best known for their high levels of selenium, consumption of Brazil nuts can help aid the body in many different ways including reproduction, heart health, brain heath and even reducing risk for some types of cancer.
In addition to the nuts, Brazil nut oil is also considered valuable, used as an ingredient in many health and cosmetic products as well as clock oil. Brazil nut tree wood is also highly valued and used for a variety of purposes including flooring, furniture and instruments. Here's our Top 7 Ways To Use Brazil Nuts
If you liked this and want to learn more about Brazil nuts, you'll find it all in our article on Everything You Need To Know About Brazil Nuts