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save some brazils…

December 21st, 2003 · No Comments

From New Scientist Brazil nut harvests heading for crash , I learn a lot about my favorite nut.

Brazil nuts are the only internationally traded seed crop collected exclusively from natural forests, and are a popular Christmas snack in the US and Europe. They are often cited as a prime example of a non-timber forest product that can be harvested sustainably from tropical forests, many of which are threatened by farming and development.

Brazil nut trees (Bertholletia excelsa) are also among the largest and oldest trees in the Amazon. With girths of five and a half metres, they can reach ages of 550 years old, he says.

Their typical nut-producing reproductive life lasts about 150 years. “The trees being harvested today are essentially the same ones being harvested 30 or 40 years ago.

The problem is these persistently overharvested stands are now becoming old,” cautions Peres. The ageing trees are in poor condition, losing their bark and becoming prone to larval infections.

Whenever we get mixed nuts during the holidays, I’m not that fond of the walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts. Just give me one of the smooth brown brazil nuts. Last year Ted would crack a few nuts after dinner and feed them to the girls as I cleaned up the table. It became one of the favorite family traditions: sitting in front of our fireplace and eating nuts. And I remember at least one night when he saved a brazil nut for me, peeling away the shell so I could enjoy it.

But according to this article, it looks like we might not be able to enjoy these nuts in years to come. They are being harvested unsustainably, from older trees that are not being replaced. The large rodents called agouti are helpful for the harvest, because they scatter and bury the nuts.

The next time I eat a brazil nut (got some on our countertop), I’ll think about how large and old these Amazon trees are. I’ll think about how it’s becoming unsustainable. The next time I eat one (or better yet, buy one), I’ll think twice.

Tags: food