The Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa), also known as para nut and cream nut, grows in tropical South America inside a hard, woody coconut-sized 'pod' that weighs about 5 pounds and contains 15 to 25 nuts. Those who gather Brazil nuts are called 'castanheiros' and they often wear wooden hats as protection from falling 'pods.'
The trees are huge, growing up to 150 feet tall and 6 feet in diameter with a crown up to 100 feet in diameter. They begin to bear fruit at about 8 years and can produce up to 500 pounds of the coconut-sized pods each year. Botanically Brazil Nuts are technically seeds.
There are very few commercial plantations in South America - most of the nuts are still harvested from the wild. Attempts to cultivate the tree outside the Amazon area have failed. Brazil nuts have a high oil content and are susceptible to rancidity.
Brazil nuts have a high fat content (about 65%) making them susceptible to rancidity. Two nuts contain as much fat as one egg.
In 1810 a small shipment of Brazil nuts arrived in New York, but it was not until after the Civil War that large quantities were imported. In 1873 three million pound of the nuts were imported.
There are about 6 Brazil nuts to the ounce.
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