Brazil Nuts: A Unique Harvest
Amazonian nut trees grow in a rainforest environment, primarily in Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. They depend heavily on the surrounding forest ecosystem, and therefore cannot be cultivated on their own or in an orchard. This makes them different from other nut-bearing trees. If tree species growing around it are removed, the Amazonian nut tree will stop producing seeds, the coconut-shaped castañas pods.
Amazonian nut trees flower once every 12 months, and only the Euglossine orchid bee can pollinate their blossoms. Pollination transforms the flower into a very hard pod which contains 12 to 20 Amazonian nuts. During the rainy season in January to March, the pods become heavy and fall to the ground. The trees grow up to 45 metres in height and the falling pods can be lethal, therefore castañaros never venture into the forest when it is windy and spend as little time as possible under the tree’s canopy. Instead, they quickly gather the seed pods off the ground and transport them elsewhere before cracking them open.
A castañaro can fill and transport two 80-kilogram sacks per day, and each sack pays 40 soles – earning them about $25 per day, a very good wage by Peruvian standards. Operating under fair trade principles, Candela Peru has worked to improve the lives and working conditions of the castañaros for over 22 years and is actively involved in various regional social programs in the Amazon’s Madre de Dios area. The company has also developed modern processing techniques to greatly improve quality standards and has been instrumental in finding world markets for this unique and sustainable forest harvest. Rancho Vignola has been proud to support Candela Peru and castañaro families for the past six years, and we look forward to many more to come.
The amazing Amazonian nut tree ~ how it reproduces.
The agouti, a large Amazonian rodent, is the only animal in the forest with teeth strong enough to gnaw through the hard shell of the castañas pod. The well-organized agouti likes to store food in the ground and inevitably will lose track of a few buried nuts, leaving them to sprout and become young Amazonian nut trees. They take 10 to 15 years to become mature nut-bearing trees and can live to be more than 500 years old, reaching up to 45 metres in height and two metres in diameter. Some trees are even known to be over 1,000 years old!