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Bertholletia excelsa (Brazil nut)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Asterids > Order: Ericales > Family: Lecythidaceae

Bertholletia excelsa (Brazil nut)

Brazil nuts. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ]

Brazil nut trees are native to the Amazon rain forest in South America. Trees are about 45 m high and bear woody pods, each pod containing 12 to 20 hard-shelled seeds that we know as Brazil nuts. Most Brazil nuts are harvested from wild trees in Brazil and exported. The kernel of a Brazil nut contains about 67% fat and eating one nut is about the caloric equivalent of eating an egg! They are a good source of phosphorus and thiamin and contain some calcium.

Brazil nut trees are native to the Amazon rain forest in South America where they grow mainly along the Amazon, Orinaco and Rio Negro rivers. Trees are typically about 45 m high and 1.8 m in diameter. They bear woody pods, each pod containing 12 to 20 hard-shelled seeds that are triangular in cross-section and arranged in the pod rather like wedges of an orange. It is these seeds that we term Brazil nuts. Nuts are harvested from pods that have fallen to the ground and harvesters have to protect themselves from falling pods by using shields and/or hard-hats. Most Brazil nuts are harvested from wild trees. There are only a few commercial plantations in Brazil and evidently none elsewhere. So when you eat a Brazil nut, you know that it has been imported from Brazil and probably came from a wild trees in the Amazon rain forest. Exporting of Brazil nuts commenced in about 1835; there is relatively little consumption of these nuts in Brazil itself.

The kernel of a Brazil nut contains about 67% fat (macadamias have 72% and pecans 71%, whereas almonds have 54% and cashews 46% fat), mainly unsaturated. Eating one nut is about the caloric equivalent of eating an egg! They are a good source of phosphorus and thiamin and contain some calcium.

Publications

  • Anon. 2002. Encyclopedia of Foods. A Guide to Healthy Nutrition. Academic Press, San Diego, California. 

  • McGee, H. 1991 (first published 1984). On Food and Cooking. The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Harper Collins, London. 

 

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