ORGANIC BRAZIL NUTS: SEEDS WORTH GOING NUTS OVER
Brazil nuts, which are actually seeds which look like nuts, have risen in popularity as man’s best friend; thanks to the high concentration of selenium present in them. A popular story from Europe also talks about a Spanish Commander who managed to save his army from starving to death by feeding Brazil nuts to them which turned out to be a powerhouse of energy and nutrition.
Thinking of discarding the odd looking Brazil nuts from your bag of mixed nuts? This will make you think again. The rich, sun-kissed soil of the Amazon forests, make Brazil nuts rich in a mineral called selenium. Recent studies have discovered selenium to have cancer fighting capabilities which have been efficient in preventing and curing prostate cancer. Two nuts a day, is all you need to keep those cancer causing free radicals at bay.
Raw Brazilian Nuts are high on calories, making them an excellent source of energy. Feeling tired and need an extra boost to carry you through the day? Just pop in a couple of these wonder nuts.
Brazil nuts are also rich phosphorous, copper, magnesium and a whole lot of minerals and vitamins. This essentially means that a couple of nuts a day are good enough to keep your body healthy.
History & Origins
Though they are called Brazil nuts, these trees are primarily found in the Amazonian forests of Bolivia. Bolivians call these nuts nuez de Brasil – nuts from Brazil. But in Brazil these nuts are known as castanhas-do-pará which translates to chestnuts from Para. The confusion of the origin of Brazil nuts does not end here. Acreans or residents of Acre prefer to call these popular nuts castanhas-do- acre! In the Orinoco area you will find the locals referring to these nuts as juvia, while the Cubans think that this coconut like fruit is a blessing of St. James and prefer to call it St. James Coconut – coquito de Santiago.
The Americans joined in the nomenclature by calling these dark looking nuts “nigger toes”. This practice was thankfully discouraged and finally banned in 1960s as an abhorrent sign of racial discrimination.
The reason why anyone with access to the Amazon area wanted to name and own these amazing nuts is perhaps the stringent conditions this tree grows in. The Brazil nut tree is very difficult to cultivate. It is a wild tree native to the Amazon forests.
The collection and processing of Brazil nuts provides employment to approximately 15,000 Bolivians for almost 9 months of the year. Bolivians take the tradition of extracting Brazil nuts from the parent coconut like fruit very seriously.
Brazil nuts are actually seeds of a coconut shaped pod which grows towards the top of really tall trees in the Amazon forest. An average Brazil nut tree grows approximately 150 feet tall and is anywhere between 3.3 to 6.6 feet wide.
Each coconut like pod contains anywhere between 10 to 15 seeds that have a hard exterior shell for protection. These seeds, which we know as Brazil nuts, are arranged like slices of an orange in a compact formation.
The Brazil pod or coconut falls from the tree at an amazing speed of 70 to 80kmph.
Agoutis, a type of rodent, is the only animal capable of penetrating the thick pod and accessing the Brazil nut. Sometimes Agoutis bury the Brazil nuts in the ground and forget about them. If the conditions are favorable, these seeds give rise to new trees.