The Brazil nut tree, Bertholletia excelsa, family Lecithidaceae, is one of the most important economic plants of the Amazonian forest due to its valuable edible seeds, commonly known as Brazil nuts. It is one of the tallest trees of the Amazon Basin’s tropical rainforest, reaching up to 50 m in height, and can reach an age of 1,000 years. Its straight cylindrical unbranched trunk has a rough gray-brown bark with longitudinal fissures and its canopy may have a diameter of 20-30 m.

Nearly all Brazil nuts come from natural forests. They represent one of the most important non-timber forest products and have an important role in the preservation of the Amazonian rainforest. The nuts are an important source of income for the local communities, which depend directly or indirectly on the Brazil nut trade. Brazil nuts have a tender, rich and mild flavor and can be used for direct consumption, as a snack, or used as an ingredient in chocolate bars, cakes or biscuits.

The Brazil nut is the most economically important plan product that is sustainably harvested in the Amazonian rainforest. Close to 70% of the world’s supply comes from the Pando region, an area that represents only 3% of the Amazon forest.

On average, world Brazil nut production was 24,350 metric tons annually during the period 2013/14-2017/18. Bolivia, with 19,000 MT, accounted for 78% of world production, followed by Peru (16% share) and Brazil (6% share)

Brazil nuts are almost exclusively harvested in natural forests, making them one of the most important products of extractive reserves in Amazonia. Although some plantations have been developed, the production is still low and not economically viable. Brazil nut flowers during the dry season with the greatest intensity in October-December. Since Brazil nut trees are angiosperms, their flowers need to be pollinated by specific bees. Once the flower has been pollinated, the fruit takes 15 months to maturate, so the fruit starts to fall at the beginning of the rainy season (January - February).

The fruit of the Brazil nut tree is a large, round capsule (10-12 cm in both diameters), with a hard, woody capsule wall. Each fruit (pod) weighs 0.5-2.5 kg and contains 10-25 seeds, which have a hard shell and triangular shape (three-sided) of about 3.5-5 cm long and 2 cm wide. The outer woody casing is so hard that only one animal, the agouti, can crack it open with its sharp, chisel-like teeth. The survival of Brazil nut trees is dependent on bees, which help pollination, and agouti, which help the dispersal of seeds

The Brazil nut tree produces round pods with a hard, woody wall which contains 10-25 angular seeds (nuts) protected by a hard shell. Brazil nuts are a great snack (raw or processed) and a good ingredient to complement pastries, salads, ice creams and yogurts. They are high in unsaturated fat, fiber, vitamin E, thiamin and minerals such as selenium, potassium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese. They are also a source of calcium and iron.

Brazil nuts are a delicious nut with a tender, rich and mild flavor. They can be consumed directly as a snack or in mixed-ingredient snacks without further processing, salting, sugaring, flavoring or roasting. They also combine perfectly with confectionary and baked goods. Brazil nuts are easily adaptable to many different dishes.

Of all nuts, Brazil nuts contain the highest amount of magnesium (376 mg/100 g). Moreover, they contain more selenium (1,917 µg /100 g) than any other food. In fact, a Brazil nut kernel (5 g) provides 95.8 µg of selenium and the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of selenium for both men and women is 55 µg/ day (1,2).

When crushed, Brazil nuts produce a clear yellowish oil which is attractive for culinary uses and for the manufacture of soaps, shampoos, hair conditioning products, as well as for skin-care products, since it acts as a good moisturizer.

- Common use examples

  • Used as a Snack

    • Raw Brazil nuts.
    • Brazil nuts in nut and dried fruit mixtures.
    • Chocolate-coated Brazil nuts.
    • Roasted and salted Brazil nuts.

  • Used as an Ingredient

    • Baked Goods Industry: bread, cookies, cakes and pastries.
    • Confectionary Industry: chocolates and chocolate bars.
    • Recipes: Salads, rice, vegetable dishes, smoothies.
    • Spreads: Brazil-nut butter.

  • Used as an Oil

    • Oil Industry: he oil made from Brazil nuts can be raw used or for cooking. Its nutty flavor and aroma are perfect for a variety of foods and recipes and make it great for drizzling on salads..
    • Cosmetic: The oil obtained from Brazil nuts can be used in cosmetic products such as moisturizing milk and shampoo.