In Brazil, these seeds are called “Castanhas-do-Pará” or “chestnuts from Pará”, in honor of a state in northern Brazil where trees grow abundantly. Although there are some plantations, most of the production comes from harvesting the pods in the wild, which takes place from December to March. It is a dangerous profession, since each capsule weighs up to five and a half pounds and falls without warning from trees at the height of an 18-story tall building. The capsules rush to Earth at 50 miles per hour with such force that they can penetrate deep into the ground.
We expect harvesters to wear helmets.
Walnuts from Brazilfirst arrived in the United States in the early 19th century and, just like in Europe, it was some time before they achieved the kind of popularity that would bring them to those omnipresent cans of mixed nuts found on the shelves of grocery stores. The Brazilian walnut tree is an imposing plant, with a wide, rough trunk that easily reaches 30 meters in height and 100 years of age. The Chinese have increased their consumption of nuts over the past decade, but nuts from Brazil still have a relatively small share in this market.
Manoel Monteiro, who runs Cooperacre, a large cooperative of nut collectors in Brazil, agrees that there is a Chinese appetite, although there are difficulties in meeting demand. By the second half of the 19th century, the celebration of Christmas in England had become a lavish holiday, and the holiday brought bowls full of raw, bitter-tasting nuts to homes across the country. However, instead of eliminating nuts from Brazil from the list of imports, the British government recently announced investments in capacity development for communities to boost their exports on a large scale. Edivan lives in the Kaxarari indigenous territory in the Brazilian Amazon, near the border with Bolivia.
The three neighbors, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru, have tried to form partnerships to promote sustainable products in foreign markets, but today they are each other's customers (and competitors). Victoria Mutran, the exporter from Belém, said that there is “great interest in nuts with shells for the Chinese market and that Chinese businessmen have already contacted her. If it's too late, they'll lose the crop to agutites, brown, cat-sized rodents that pick up all the Brazil nut pods they find and then bury the nuts individually, just like squirrels bury acorns for future food. Not surprisingly, Brazil nuts didn't really take off until the Spanish and Portuguese made better forays into the jungles.
Edivaldo Kaxarari, a schoolteacher, buys and sells nuts from Brazil to supplement his income, increasing each can by 5 reais. From December to April, walnut collectors in Brazil can find the shells on the forest floor, near the mother tree. The Brazilian nut comes from the Bertholletia excelsa tree, which is found throughout the Amazon rainforest, an area that covers approximately 2.7 million square miles in South America, which extends across northwestern Brazil and reaches Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador. A Smithsonian biologist tracks down protein-rich nuts to understand their role in the Amazon rainforest.
Edivaldo resells his production to Rosenilson Ferreira, known as Louro, who, during the harvest of nuts, usually goes to the territory to load his truck.