by Ben Kromayer
Feb 28th 2019
Legend has it, there was a young warrior named Caboré. She belonged to the Indian tribe Tefés and was cherished by them for her beauty and courage. Once, as usual, Caboré went hunting in the woods. At nightfall, she had not returned to the village yet. The Tefés’ concern increased as time passed by.
The warrior Aipá, who most loved Caboré, decided to look for the young lady. For hours and hours, he looked for her in the forest and let himself fall on the bank of a stream. He was desperate and asked for God Tupã’s mercy: “Tupã, help me! Where is Caboré? Where can I find her?” Tupã answered: “Brave warrior, I know your pain. Look at the water and you find your beloved Caboré”!
When Aipá looked at the water, he saw, mirrored on the surface, the lifeless body of his beloved. Caboré was possessed and killed by evil spirits when she entered the land of Juruparís. Aipá fell into despair. When Tupã saw the pain he was going through, he had compassion and transformed Caboré’s body into a great and elegant tree, to give consolation, life and strength to the Tefés tribe.
Tupã was anxious to create the brazil nut tree for the sole purpose of serving the inhabitants that roamed these forests, because until today the brazil nut tree can only survive surrounded by the natural diversity of the Amazonian region.
For it to be pollinated, the tree requires the native Euglossini bee; and in turn for this bee to exist, an intact Amazonian biome is needed.
The bee’s help is not enough however, the tree also needs the agouti’s help for it to spread. The agouti, or Cutia as it is known in Brazil is a small rodent and the only animal in the world that can open the Brazil nut’s shell. And since the agouti buries everything it cannot eat on the spot, new brazil nut trees can grow from what it leaves behind.
If ever the Euglossini bee and the Cutia disappeared from this environment, the Brazil nut tree would be in grave danger of vanishing, since not even the savvy Chinese were able to cultivate the nut tree outside the Amazonian biome. The trees planted grew, but could not produce any fruit…
For its counterparts in the Amazon on the other hand the story looks quite different: An adult tree produces up to 20,000 nuts a year and can reach a high of 60 meters and might even look back at a 1000 year life.
If we now consider that a Brazil nut tree starts producing nuts at the tender age of 10, this means that an “old” tree can produce around 20.000.000 nuts in the course of its life.
Additionally, if we consider the fact that 6 nuts have the same (or even higher) nutritional value of 200g of beef, the total quantity of nuts produced by a single tree, corresponds to around 666,666 kg of beef.
Considering the losses during the slaughter of these animals (skin, bone, blood, etc), the nuts correspond to 3333 cattle, or 3,3 a year.
"Only if we can turn rainforest more valuable in the eyes of farmers, we can sustainably preserve it"
Tupã’s mercy must have been have been infinite great to both the Tefés tribe and the cattle.
But apparently, the financial managers of conventional farms, which are proliferating throughout the Amazonian region haven’t done their math properly, as the economic rationale causing the illegal, yet widespread practice of deforestation (also involving the Brazil nut tree), is not discernable.
Therefore, the nativel inhabitants of the forest seem to have outsmarted the invaders…
However, as a venerated God, Tupã did not want to make things too easy for the people. Therefore, the Tefés’ descendents still walk through the humid and almost unbearably hot forest (between December and February), just to collect the nuts, which have fallen from the trees.
During this activity they have to be very careful, because about 25 nuts are inside a hard capsule and they have the weight and size of a coconut. The falling down of such capsules, considering their size and weight, from high altitudes, can be absolutely leathal for someone passing by.
Getting to the eatable part of the nut is no easy feat, requiring persistence and resilience. The capsule has to be cracked open with a large knife at the collection site, in order to avoid fungus or bacteria going in and therefore making the nut inedible, or even poisonous.
Inside the capsule are the Brazil nuts. Once all obstacles have been overcome, can we enjoy the most valuable of all nuts. A lot of protein and plenty essential fatty acids (the good ones, that actually protect the heart!), selenium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, iron, sodium zinc, manganese, vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, C and E. All of that can be found in one nut.
We from TodaVida love Brazil nuts and the many stories surrounding them. Much more important however is, to recognize something: