By definition, the Brazil nut isn’t actually a nut. That’s because nuts are classified as being a hard-shelled tree fruit that contains a single seed. The fruit of the Brazil nut tree is similar to coconuts, typically round shells that are about 10-15 cm in diameter and contain 18-20 seeds that have their own hard, woody shell. This is why Brazil ‘nuts’ are actually considered to be seeds. In fact, Brazil nuts are more closely related to persimmons and blueberries than walnuts or pecans.
Although they’re called “Brazil” nuts, the trees that produce them actually grow all throughout the Amazon, and the nuts are found in Bolivia and Peru as well as Brazil. The trees grow incredibly high, up to 50 meters, so they’re one of the tallest species of tree that grows in the Amazon rainforest. The Brazil nut tree is vital to the conservation of the rainforests in the region because it only grows in an unexploited ecosystem, where there is a significant concentration of biodiversity.
Natural regeneration is one of the interesting conservation values of the Brazil nut tree. It’s possible thanks to the South American agouti, which is a unique species of rodent that is capable of breaking the Brazil nut fruit’s hard shell in order to access the seeds inside. Once the agouti has eaten it’s fill, it buries the remaining seeds and they germinate to continue the cycle of natural regeneration.
There are some plantations, but Brazil nuts are primarily harvested in the wild between December and March, when the fruits begin to fall from their trees. Gatherers known as castañeros build temporary camps to give them better access to the trees (since they’re located in remote, unexploited areas), and they roam the jungle in search of fallen nuts. When they find them, the castañeros use a machete to open them and gather the seeds, which are then transported to processing plants in the cities.
At the processing plants, the Brazil nut seeds are screened for quality, then peeled of their hard, woody shell. The nut-like centers of the seeds are then dried or roasted for consumption, or cold-pressed to extract the oil for use in skincare and other products.
At Teadora, Brazil nut oil is an important ingredient in our proprietary elixirs, which is the secret to the effectiveness of our all-natural, vegan products. For example, its an excellent detoxifier and antioxidant-rich ingredient in our Brightening & Exfoliating Mud, and provides powerful moisture and healing in our Radiance & Renewal Oil.
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