Rainforestproject Brazil Nut
Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa)
In botanical terms, the Brazil nut is a capsule rather than a nut. Brazil nut trees mainly grow in the Amazon rainforest of Bolivia and Brazil. They are symbiotically rooted there, meaning they cannot exist without the fauna and flora of the Amazon.
Synonyms for the Brazil nut include: Almond of the Amazon, Brazilian chestnut, ivory nut and cream nut. The English term is Brazil nut. The state of Pará, “Castanha do paré” in Portuguese, is therefore also located in Northern Brazil – which is where the German term “Paranuss” originates from.
We are protecting this special habitat
The wild Brazil nut trees which grow in the Amazon region absorb carbon dioxide and produce vital oxygen. Their deep roots help to protect the forest against erosion, and water is stored in the soil.
The unique interplay of flora and fauna provides food for humans and animals. We all have a responsibility to protect the largest continuous rainforest. This is why the “Brazil nut” rainforest project is so important to us. Through the Organic Brazil Nut Project, we are trying to provide a fair standard of living for local people. Naturkost Übelhör is trying to focus its day-to-day activities on environmental conservation. The reduction of pesticides and other environmental pollutants is important to us – this is why we promote organic farming worldwide. The conservation of resources should be top priority for everyone. The Brazil nut gatherers also recognise the need for this – they can only secure their livelihood within a healthy, intact ecosystem.
How do Brazil nuts come about?
The trees, which are native to the Amazon rainforest, can grow up to 60 m high. They need a tropical climate and consistent temperatures and rainfall in order to develop to their full potential. Special insects pollinate the creamy-white Brazil nut flowers - capsules (pods) weighing up to 3 kg develop from within these flowers. In turn, up to 40 triangular hard-shelled seed kernels are found in these capsules. After approx. 18 months, once these fruits from the Brazil nut tree have reached maturity, they fall to the ground. There, the capsules are found by local gatherers who crack open the hard shell, which is similar to that of a coconut, on location with a machete, and remove the triangular seed kernels. The seed kernels obtained by the gatherers are collected centrally and dried over a period of several days in a large, sunny spot.
A Brazil nut tree can grow to be very old. The inhabitants of the rainforest say that this can be up to 100 years. The first capsules ripen after about 10 years. A fully-grown tree produces up to half a tonne of Brazil nuts per year.
The delicious fruits don’t just taste good to humans, but also to the medium-sized Agouti rodent, which normally cracks open the Brazil nut capsule’s hard shell and caters to the tree’s natural distribution process.
After drying, the seed kernels are packaged into net bags and loaded onto lorries. These lorries transport them to factories where the creamy-white Brazil nut is finally removed from its shell. However, there is still a lot to do before this.
First of all, the dry Brazil nuts are graded whilst still in their shells. For this, they are passed over a perforated plate in order to be sorted by size. Afterwards, defective or discoloured seed kernels are separated out by means of a water bath. Non-defective seed kernels sink to the bottom, whereas the damaged ones float to the top of the water bath and can be skimmed off.
After the water bath, the good Brazil nuts (in their shells) have to be dried once again. This mainly takes place in drying ovens in order to bring the residual moisture to a maximum of 10%. This is the only way to ensure the seed kernels will be free from mould growth during longer periods of storage.
The harvest takes place in the period between November and April. Because not all of the Brazil nuts that are collected can be removed from their hard triangular shells immediately, they have to be stored temporarily in their shells in ventilated silos.
In the Brazil nut factory, the seed shells are cracked open using simple but efficient tools. Here, a high level of concentration is necessary – only perfect, whole Brazil nuts achieve good prices in the market.
There is also a brown seed skin around the Brazil nut which is removed by soaking and steaming the Brazil nut for a prolonged period of time. On average, one employee can manage about 25 kg per day. The Brazil nuts removed from the shells are now calibrated by hand and packaged for export.
Brazil nuts which do not fit into the desired calibration are pressed to create oil for the cosmetics industry.
The calibration available at Naturkost Übelhör = number of kernels/pound (454g):
What is the difference between organic and conventional Brazil nuts?
Brazil nuts are collected from the wild in the virgin forest. They are all the same until they are delivered to the factory.
Differentiation between the organic and conventional Brazil nuts takes place in the work steps that follow, during which various operating materials (cleaning and disinfection products) are used. In the organic production industry, different standards are used for these materials compared to in conventional industry.
Why are there no longer any Brazil nuts?
The yield from the Brazil nut harvest of 2016/17 was much lower than previous years in terms of quantity. The reason for this was that the weather conditions during the harvest period were too moist or extremely wet. Because so much rain fell onto the ripe capsules lying on the soil, the triangular seed kernels in the capsules became mouldy. From the outside of the nuts, this wasn’t obvious and so it was only possible to identify whether the Brazil nuts inside could be used once the capsules had been opened. Due to this, only approx. 65% of the overall harvest was available for the global market in 2017 in relation to previous years.
Brazil nuts in the daily diet
Brazil nuts contain a lot of energy due to their high fat content.
Working on the assumption that the total daily allowance is 2000 kcal for women and perhaps 2500 kcal for men, then 100 grams of Brazil nuts already provides 661 kcal.
Nutritional values per 100 g (source: USDA Database2917)
Energy 2802 kJ (661 kcal)
Fat 67.9 g
of which saturated fatty acids 17.9 g
Carbohydrates 7.2 g
of which sugar 3.6 g
Fibre 7.1 g
Protein 14.3 g
Salt 0.0 g
A cracked Brazil nut can be kept for 1 year if stored appropriately (cool, dark and dry place). The high fat content predetermines the storage conditions.
Brazil nuts taste nutty, somewhat sweet and slightly creamy/oily. Fresh “nuts” have a firm consistency, a slightly creamy colour and are very firm to bite.
Why is it rarely possible to buy Brazil nuts in their shells?
The shell of the Brazil nut is very hard – it’s hardly possible to open them using a normal nutcracker. You would perhaps get just 50% of Brazil nut kernels from 1 kg of Brazil nuts in their shells.