Origin and History
For centuries, the indigenous people of the rainforest have relied on Brazil nuts as a critical staple of their diet. They eat the nuts raw, or grate and mix them with the thorny roots of the Socratea palm into a white mush known as leite de castanha. The bark of the Brazil nut tree is brewed into a tea to treat liver ailments and diseases. The first historical reference to Brazil nuts dates to 1569, when a Spanish colonial official collected thousands of such nuts to replenish his troops. They were first imported to Europe in the 1600s by Dutch traders.
The thick mellon-shaped fruit pods of the Brazil nut tree each contain from 16 to 32 nuts. The pods are so heavy that locals generally avoid Brazil nut trees on rainy or windy days to avoid being struck by falling fruit.
The pods are gathered when they have fallen from the trees and are chopped open by machete to obtain the nuts. The remote location of Brazil nut trees means the nuts can only be shipped during the rainy season, when stream and river waters are navigable.
In Brazil, the nuts are often called Paras, because they are exported from ports in the state of Para. Brazil nuts are the second largest export of the Amazon jungle, after rubber.
Brazil nuts can be enjoyed both raw and roasted, salted or unsalted. They are popular in ice cream, chocolate, bakery dishes and confectionery items. Brazil nuts are full of significant nutrients, including protein, fiber, selenium, magnesium, phosphorus and thiamin. They also contain niacin, vitamin E, vitamin B6, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc and copper.