How Do Brazil Nuts Grow?
Brazil nuts grow on tall evergreen trees found in the forests of Brazil. The trees bear large, round seedcases that resemble coconuts. Each seedcase contains four to 24 three-sided nuts or seeds, arranged like sections of an orange. The nut kernels are rich in oil and delicious to eat.
When ripe, the heavy seedcase with the nuts inside crashes to the ground. Since the trees may be 100 feet (30 meters) high, workers who harvest the nuts must protect their heads and shoulders with strong wooden shields when walking under the trees.
The fruit takes 14 months to mature after pollination of the flowers. The fruit itself is a large capsule 10–15 cm (3.9–5.9 in) in diameter, resembling a coconut endocarp in size and weighing up to 2 kg (4.4 lb).
The capsule contains a small hole at one end, which enables large rodents like the agouti to gnaw it open. They then eat some of the seeds inside while burying others for later use; some of these are able to germinate into new Brazil nut trees.
Most of the seeds are “planted” by the agoutis in shady places, and the young saplings may have to wait years, in a state of dormancy, for a tree to fall and sunlight to reach it, when it starts growing again. Capuchin monkeys have been reported to open Brazil nuts using a stone as an anvil.
Brazil nuts are 14% protein, 12% carbohydrate, and 66% fat by weight; 85% of their calories come from fat, and a 100 g serving provides 656 total calories. The fat components are 23% saturated 38% monounsaturated, and 32% polyunsaturated. Due to their high polyunsaturated fat content, primarily omega-6 fatty acids, shelled Brazil nuts may quickly become rancid.