Brazil Nuts

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Brazil nuts are unusually large, an inch/2.5 cm or more long, and double the weight of almonds and cashews. They’re the seeds of a large tree (Bertholletia excelsa, 150 ft/50 m tall, 6 ft/2 m across) native to the Amazon region of South America, where they develop in groups of 8 to 24 inside a hard, coconutsized shell. South American countries are still the main producers. The pods are gathered only after they fall to the ground. Because they weigh about 5 pounds, they can be lethal missiles, and harvesters must carry shields to protect themselves. The edible portion of the seed is an immensely swollen embryonic stem. Thanks to their size and high oil content, two large Brazil nuts are the caloric equivalent of one egg.