Brazil Nut
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Brazil Nut

Brazil nut tree
Bertholletia excelsa compose.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Lecythidaceae
Subfamily: Lecythidoideae
Genus: Bertholletia
Bonpl.
Species:
B. excelsa
Binomial name
Bertholletia excelsa
Humb. & Bonpl.

The Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) is a South American tree in the family Lecythidaceae, and also the name of the tree's commercially harvested edible seeds.

Order

The Brazil nut family is in the order Ericales, as are other well-known plants such as blueberries, cranberries, sapote, gutta-percha, tea, phlox and persimmons.

Brazil nut tree

Tree branch

The Brazil nut tree is the only species in the monotypic genus Bertholletia. It is native to the Guianas, Venezuela, Brazil, eastern Colombia, eastern Peru, and eastern Bolivia. It occurs as scattered trees in large forests on the banks of the Amazon River, Rio Negro, Tapajós, and the Orinoco. The genus is named after the French chemist Claude Louis Berthollet.

The Brazil nut is a large tree, reaching 50 m (160 ft) tall and with a trunk 1 to 2 m (3.3 to 6.6 ft) in diameter, making it among the largest of trees in the Amazon rainforests. It may live for 500 years or more, and according to some authorities often reaches an age of 1,000 years.[1] The stem is straight and commonly without branches for well over half the tree's height, with a large emergent crown of long branches above the surrounding canopy of other trees.

The bark is grayish and smooth. The leaves are dry-season deciduous, alternate, simple, entire or crenate, oblong, 20-35 cm (7.9-13.8 in) long and 10-15 cm (3.9-5.9 in) broad. The flowers are small, greenish-white, in panicles 5-10 cm (2.0-3.9 in) long; each flower has a two-parted, deciduous calyx, six unequal cream-colored petals, and numerous stamens united into a broad, hood-shaped mass.[]

Hazards

In Brazil, it is illegal to cut down a Brazil nut tree.[] As a result, they can be found outside production areas, in the backyards of homes and near roads and streets. The fruits are very heavy and rigid; when the fruits fall, they pose a serious threat to vehicles and people passing under the tree. Brazil nut fruits sink in fresh water, which can cause clogging of waterways in riparian areas.[]

Reproduction

A freshly cut Brazil nut fruit

Brazil nut trees produce fruit almost exclusively in pristine forests, as disturbed forests lack the large-bodied bees of the genera Bombus, Centris, Epicharis, Eulaema, and Xylocopa which are the only ones capable of pollinating the tree's flowers, with different bee genera being the primary pollinators in different areas, and different times of year.[2][3][4] Brazil nuts have been harvested from plantations, but production is low and is currently not economically viable.[5][6][7]

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). It has a hard, woody shell 8-12 mm (0.31-0.47 in) thick, which contains eight to 24 wedge-shaped seeds 4-5 cm (1.6-2.0 in) long (the "Brazil nuts") packed like the segments of an orange.

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.

Nomenclature

Brazil nut seeds in shell
Depiction of the Brazil nut in Scientific American Supplement, No. 598, June 18, 1887

Despite their name, the most significant exporter of Brazil nuts is not Brazil but Bolivia, where they are called castañas de Brasil, nuez de Brasil or castañas de Pando ("chestnuts from Pando"). In Brazil, these nuts are called castanhas-do-pará (literally "chestnuts from Pará"), but Acreans call them castanhas-do-acre instead. Indigenous names include juvia in the Orinoco area. In Cuba, the nut is alternatively called coquito de Santiago, literally St. James coconut.

In the past in North America, Brazil nuts were sometimes known by the epithet "nigger toes,"[8][9][10] a term that became unacceptable as it is based on a racial slur.[11]

Nut production

In 2014, global production of Brazil nuts (in shell) was 95,000 tonnes, remaining a consistent annual total since 2009.[12] The largest producers were Bolivia (47% of world total) and Brazil (40%), and the United States was the largest importer, with 9% of the world production volume.[12]

Effects of harvesting

Brazil nuts for international trade derive mainly from wild harvests in tropical forests.[13][14] This has been advanced as a model for generating income from a tropical forest without destroying it.[13] The nuts are gathered by migrant workers known as castañeros.[13]Logging is a significant threat to the sustainability of Brazil nut trees.[13][14]

Analysis of tree ages in areas that are harvested show that moderate and intense gathering takes so many seeds that not enough are left to replace older trees as they die.[14] Sites with light gathering activities had many young trees, while sites with intense gathering practices had hardly any young trees.[15]

Uses

Nutrition

Brazil nuts after shell removal

Brazil nuts are 14% protein, 12% carbohydrate, and 66% fat by weight; 85% of their calories come from fat, and a 100 gram amount provides 656 total calories.[16] The fat components are 23% saturated, 38% monounsaturated, and 32% polyunsaturated.[16][17] Due to their high polyunsaturated fat content, primarily omega-6 fatty acids, shelled Brazil nuts may quickly become rancid.

Nutritionally, Brazil nuts are an excellent source (> 19% of the Daily Value, DV) of dietary fiber (30% DV) and various vitamins and dietary minerals. A 100 gram amount (75% of one cup) of Brazil nuts contains rich content of thiamin (54% DV), vitamin E (38% DV), magnesium (106% DV), phosphorus (104% DV), manganese (57% DV) and zinc (43% DV) (right table). Brazil nuts are perhaps the richest dietary source of selenium, with a one-ounce (28 g) serving of 6 nuts supplying 774% DV.[16] This is 10 times the adult U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance, more even than the Tolerable Upper Intake Level, although the amount of selenium within batches of nuts varies greatly.[18]

The European Union has imposed strict regulations on the import from Brazil of Brazil nuts in their shells, as the shells have been found to contain high levels of aflatoxins, which can lead to liver cancer.[19]

Brazil nuts contain small amounts of radium, a radioactive element, in about 1-7 nCi/kg or 40-260 Bq/kg, about 1000 times higher than in several other common foods; according to Oak Ridge Associated Universities, this is not because of elevated levels of radium in the soil, but due to "the very extensive root system of the tree."[20]

Brazil nuts are a common ingredient in mixed nuts. Because of their large size, they tend to rise to the top upon forced vibrations likely encountered during transport, an example of granular convection, which for this reason is often called the "Brazil nut effect."

Brazil nut oil

Brazil nut oil

Brazil nut oil contains 75% unsaturated fatty acids composed mainly of oleic and linoleic acids, as well as the phytosterol, beta-sitosterol,[21] and fat-soluble vitamin E.[22]

The following table presents the composition of fatty acids in Brazil nut oil:[16]

Other uses

A carved Brazil nut fruit

As well as its food use, Brazil nut oil is also used as a lubricant in clocks, for making artists' paints, and in the cosmetics industry. Engravings in Brazil nut shells were supposedly used as decorative jewelry by the indigenous tribes in Bolivia, although no examples still exist. Because of its hardness, the Brazil nut's shell is often pulverized and used as an abrasive to polish materials such as metals and ceramics, in the same way jeweler's rouge is used.

Wood

The lumber from Brazil nut trees (not to be confused with Brazilwood) is of excellent quality, but logging the trees is prohibited by law in all three producing countries (Brazil, Bolivia and Peru). Illegal extraction of timber and land clearances present a continuing threat.[23]

See also

References

  1. ^ Bruno Taitson (January 18, 2007). "Harvesting nuts, improving lives in Brazil". World Wildlife Fund. Archived from the original on May 23, 2008. Retrieved 2012.
  2. ^ Nelson, B. W.; Absy, M. L.; Barbosa, E. M.; Prance, G. T. (1985). "Observations on flower visitors to Bertholletia excelsa H. B. K. and Couratari tenuicarpa A. C. Sm.(Lecythidaceae)". Acta Amazonica. 15 (1): 225-234. doi:10.1590/1809-43921985155234. Retrieved 2008.
  3. ^ Moritz, A. (1984). "Estudos biológicos da floração e da frutificação da castanha-do-Brasil (Bertholletia excelsa HBK)". 29. Retrieved 2008. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Cavalcante, M. C.; Oliveira, F. F.; Maués, M. M.; Freitas, B. M. (October 27, 2017). "Pollination Requirements and the Foraging Behavior of Potential Pollinators of Cultivated Brazil Nut (Bertholletia excelsaBonpl.) Trees in Central Amazon Rainforest". Psyche: A Journal of Entomology. 2012: 1-9. doi:10.1155/2012/978019.
  5. ^ Scott A. Mori. "The Brazil Nut Industry --- Past, Present, and Future". The New York Botanical Garden. Retrieved 2012.
  6. ^ Tim Hennessey (March 2, 2001). "The Brazil Nut (Bertholletia excelsa)". Archived from the original on January 11, 2009. Retrieved 2012.
  7. ^ Enrique G. Ortiz. "The Brazil Nut Tree: More than just nuts". Archived from the original on February 16, 2008. Retrieved 2012.
  8. ^ A. B. Lyons Plant Names, Scientific and Popular, second edition, page 71
  9. ^ Young, W. J. (1911). "The Brazil Nut" (PDF). Botanical Gazette. 52 (3): 226-231. doi:10.1086/330613.
  10. ^ Cassidy, F. G.; Hall, J. H. (1985). "Dictionary of American Regional English" (PDF). The Uses of Large Text Databases: 1-8.
  11. ^ Brunvand, J. H. (1972). "The Study of Contemporary Folklore: Jokes". Fabula. 13 (1): 1-19. doi:10.1515/fabl.1972.13.1.1.
  12. ^ a b Kosikova, Daria (July 21, 2016). "Brazil Nut Market - Globalization on the Brazil Nut Market". IndexBox. Retrieved 2017.
  13. ^ a b c d Kate Evans (November 7, 2013). "Harvesting both timber and Brazil nuts in Peru's Amazon forests: Can they coexist?". Forests News. Retrieved 2019.
  14. ^ a b c Mark Kivner (May 11, 2010). "Intensive harvests 'threaten Brazil nut tree future'". BBC News: Science and Environment. Retrieved 2019.
  15. ^ Silvertown, J. (2004). "Sustainability in a nutshell". Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 19 (6): 276-278. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2004.03.022.
  16. ^ a b c d "Nutrition facts for Brazil nuts, dried, unblanched, 100 g serving". Self NutritionData. Conde Nast; US Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, version SR-21. 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  17. ^ "Nuts, Brazil nuts, dried, unblanched per 100 grams". National Nutrient Database, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2017.
  18. ^ Chang, Jacqueline C.; Walter H. Gutenmann; Charlotte M. Reid; Donald J. Lisk (1995). "Selenium content of Brazil nuts from two geographic locations in Brazil". Chemosphere. 30 (4): 801-802. doi:10.1016/0045-6535(94)00409-N. PMID 7889353. 0045-6535.
  19. ^ "Commission Decision of July 4, 2003 imposing special conditions on the import of Brazil nuts in shell originating in or consigned from Brazil". Official Journal of the European Union. July 5, 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  20. ^ "Brazil Nuts". Oak Ridge Associated Universities. January 20, 2009. Retrieved 2018.
  21. ^ M. Kornsteiner-Krenn; KH Wagner; I. Elmadfa (2013). "Phytosterol content and fatty acid pattern of ten different nut types". International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research. 83 (5): 263-70. doi:10.1024/0300-9831/a000168. PMID 25305221.
  22. ^ E. Ryan; K. Galvin; TP O'Connor; AR Maguire; NM O'Brien (2006). "Fatty acid profile, tocopherol, squalene and phytosterol content of brazil, pecan, pine, pistachio and cashew nuts". International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 57 (3-4): 219-28. doi:10.1080/09637480600768077. PMID 17127473.
  23. ^ "Greenpeace Activists Trapped by Loggers in Amazon". Greenpeace. October 18, 2007. Retrieved 2012.

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