How To Grow Brazil Nuts?

Brazil nuts are one of the most popular nuts in the world. They have been used for food and medicine since ancient times. They were first cultivated in South America around 1500 BC. Today they are grown worldwide, but not all varieties produce edible fruit or nuts. Most types of Brazil nut trees are tropical evergreens that require cool temperatures to thrive. Some species of Brazil nut trees may only survive in some areas of their native range. For example, the Brazilian almond (Acer negundo) grows exclusively in California’s Central Valley, while the African kudu (Ceratonia siliqua) is found mostly in Africa.

The variety known as the “African” brazil nut is actually a hybrid between two different kinds of tree: the acacia and the yam. These hybrids are called “black” because they contain up to 40% black seed kernels. Black seeds are very high in protein and low in fat, making them an excellent source of energy for humans. However, the kernels are small, and the kernel size varies from 3/8 inch to 1 inch. Thus, they do not provide enough nutrition for human consumption when eaten whole.

Instead, they are usually processed to make brazil nut butter or meal.

Most varieties of brazil nut trees can live for up to 200 years. They grow slowly, and do not begin bearing nuts until they are at least 10-20 years old. They often reach full size at about 50 years, but do not reach full maturity until their 100th year. They can produce nuts or fruit for up to 30 years before becoming too unproductive to bother with.

Brazil nut trees are usually found in moist subtropical or tropical lowlands between sea level and 2,000 feet elevation. These trees are not frost-resistant.

Interesting Facts about the Brazil Nut Tree

The following are some facts about brazil nut trees that may surprise you:

1) The seed embryos can remain viable for up to 50 days if they are taken out of the fruit and kept cool and dry.

2) The brazil nut tree can grow to a height of at least 90 feet.

3) The fruit is a capsule that is about 2 1/2 inches long.

Inside are two to eight seeds covered by a thin, papery skin.

4) When the fruit begins to ripen, it splits open into two halves, exposing the brazil nuts.

Each brazil nut is coated with a green, sticky substance called “balm.” When the nuts are removed from the fruit, they have to be immersed in water for a few days to allow the balm to dissolve before they can be planted.

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5) The nuts contain two germs that grow into two new trees when they are planted in rich, well-drained soil with plenty of humus.

6) The brazil nut tree prefers light, porous, acid soil that is high in nitrogen and phosphates.

7) The average yield of brazil nuts is between 50 and 100 pounds per year, but each tree will only produce for about 10 to 20 years.

8) The shells of the brazil nut are very hard, making them difficult to open.

9) In the wild, brazil nut trees must be at least 10 feet apart so that their branches don’t touch.

10) The brazil nut tree is sometimes cultivated in plantations.

11) The ripe fruit can make a sweet, non-alcoholic drink.

12) The brazil nut is also valued for its nutritious oil, which has many industrial uses.

13) Although the brazil nut tree is native to South America, it is widespread in tropical regions around the world.

14) The brazil nut is a food that is rich in energy. It contains about 65% fat and 20% protein.

Brazil Nut Tree Info: How To Grow Brazil Nut Trees - Picture

15) A brazil nut is about 75% fat!

16) It also contains some carbohydrate and fiber.

17) After felling and peeling, the nuts are usually split, roasted and salted.

18) They can also be melted and made into milk, butter, cheese and other foods.

19) Some people simply eat the kernels as a snack.

20) The oil is used in the making of soaps, shampoos, paints, etc.

21) The leaves and young shoots can also be eaten.

22) There are around 1,200 species of the Brazil-nut family throughout the tropical regions of North and South America.

23) The brazil nut tree is not actually a nut — it is a fruit!

24) A brazil nut is really a huge seed, but it is so large that most people think of it as a nut.

25) The shell of a brazil nut is so hard that it wasn’t opened and eaten until the arrival of the first Europeans in South America.

Brazil Nut Tree Info: How To Grow Brazil Nut Trees - Image

26) Tribes such as the Brazil’s Tupi and Caraja first collected the nuts that had fallen to the ground, roasting and eating them directly from the shell.

How to Plant a Brazil Nut Tree

The following is a brief guide on how to plant a brazil nut tree:

1) Obtain your seeds or sprouts.

You can from online or from other sources, such as hardware stores that sell brazil nut trees. If you buy a seed, it should be soft and grayish-tan in color. If you buy a sprout, it should be green.

2) Prepare the soil.

The soil should be fertile, well-drained and loose.

3) Find a location that receives at least six hours of sunlight a day.

4) Dig a hole one spade deep and three times as wide as the brazil nut seed.

5) Place the seed in the hole, pointed end up, and cover it with soil.

Pat the soil gently to ensure good contact with the seed.

6) Water the soil until you see seepage out the hole.

7) Place a nursery container over the seed to protect it from wildlife.

Brazil Nut Tree Info: How To Grow Brazil Nut Trees - Picture

8) Keep the soil damp at all times and protect the seedling from wildlife by covering it with mesh or chicken wire.

9) When the seedling is about six inches high, transplant it into a bed that has been prepared with fertile soil mixed with leaf mold, compost or humus.

10) Space the trees 12 feet apart in all directions.

It takes about six to eight years for a brazil nut tree to produce its first crop of nuts. Each tree can produce up to 500 pounds of nuts each year, but yields vary widely.

When and if your brazil nut tree begins to bear fruit, you will also need to provide some sort of structure to protect your crop from animals such as opossums, squirrels, raccoons and armadillos.

Once the nuts are mature, they fall to the ground. If you want to collect and eat them, you must do it as soon as possible, because the brazil nut quickly becomes soft and unusable. The edible part of the brazil nut is the seed inside, which is removed by boiling the nut in water for a few minutes. The shell can then be cracked open easily to reveal the white kernel inside.

Brazil nuts are high in selenium, which can interfere with the thyroid’s functioning if consumed in excess. Selenium is an essential mineral, and brazil nuts provide a good source of it. Too much can cause your thyroid to become sluggish.

For this reason, only consume a couple of brazil nuts a day. Consuming too many can also give you an upset stomach due to their high fat content. This is why it is best to eat them raw and fresh from the shell.

To grow brazil nuts in your yard or home, the easiest method is to order brazil nut tree seeds online. The seedlings must be grown indoors until they are at least six inches high, and then can be transplanted outside.

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They grow very slowly, but after six to eight years you may begin to harvest from it. These trees can live for a very long time, but once you begin taking from it, it will eventually die.

With any luck, perhaps your grandchildren will benefit from the brazil nut tree you grow.

By Matt O’Keefe & Steve Edwards

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Sources & references used in this article:

Ecology and management of the Brazil nut tree (Bertholletia excelsa) by PA Zuidema – 2003 – researchgate.net

Demographic threats to the sustainability of Brazil nut exploitation by CA Peres, C Baider, PA Zuidema, LHO Wadt… – …, 2003 – science.sciencemag.org

Demography of the Brazil nut tree (Bertholletia excelsa) in the Bolivian Amazon: impact of seed extraction on recruitment and population dynamics by PA Zuidema, RGA Boot – Journal of Tropical Ecology, 2002 – cambridge.org

Age and Growth Patterns of Brazil Nut Trees (Bertholletia excelsa Bonpl.) in Amazonia, Brazil by J Schöngart, R Gribel… – Biotropica, 2015 – Wiley Online Library

How old are large Brazil-nut trees (Bertholletia excelsa) in the Amazon? by PB de Camargo, RP Salomão, S Trumbore… – Scientia …, 1994 – SciELO Brasil

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