Monday 19 July 2010

Nuts to that

Drat. I read yesterday that while it's a good thing for New Zealanders to eat Brazil nuts regularly, as an excellent source of selenium which is naturally scarce here, there is such a thing as selenium poisoning, and the limit should be one nut a day. One nut! I thought I was being exceptionally restrained just having three - it is a nut, after all, and who ever could eat just one nut and then stop? (Except for a coconut, of course.)

Brazil nuts don't just grow in Brazil - the trees are all through Amazonia, which means also Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, the Guianas and Venezuela. The reason why they're so expensive is that the trees are huge, really high, slow-growing, and don't fruit till they're mature, so there's no such thing as a Brazil nut tree plantation - no-one's ever been foresighted and selfless enough to plant one.
So the only way to gather the nuts is to trek through the jungle at the right time of year and pick them up when they've fallen - taking great care not to be underneath when they fall, because they weigh several kilos and could split your skull, easy as. Because that's the other thing, the nuts we get crabby trying to crack at Christmas, straining our wrists to break those hard shells (inevitably breaking the nut itself, which sticks to the bits of shell so tenaciously that you end up gnawing the meat off) - that segment shape is exactly that. They grow like oranges, fitted together inside a hard outer shell a bit like a coconut - which is just as hard to get into.

You kind of wonder why it's all so difficult - except I suppose the aim isn't for the nut to be eaten, but dispersed to grow elsewhere; in its slow-motion way in no particular hurry for the shells to break down so the seed can germinate. Nature makes me tired sometimes, just thinking about stuff like this.
But oh! The joy and delight of eating a fresh Brazil nut, that hasn't gone through that whole prolonged business of collection, processing and distribution, getting harder and staler at every stage. When I stayed at Refugio Amazonas in Peru, about three hours by motorboat up the Tambopata River from Puerto Maldonado, they had a little machine for cracking the nuts, and the taste was a revelation: creamy, moist, soft, delicate... so delicious there was no way I could stop at just one. So now there's another mystery: how do Amazonian Indians not succumb to selenium poisoning?

(One of the symptoms is hair loss. Clearly Roderigo the Capybara here hasn't succumbed.)


Ralph said...

Very informative article about those nuts!

You have good articles, maybe you would be interested to pop in our World Wide Travel Blog Party. You can bring your blogger friends, the more the merrier!

Travel Blog said...

Love this article ! Keep up the good work. It must have driven you nuts to write about so much nuts ;)

Cheap holiday deals said...

Thanks for providing finicky information. I would like to admire the writer’s effort for his remarkable work.

TravelSkite said...

Well, thank you all: it's nice to be appreciated, even if the last commenter got my sex wrong (easy odds, CHD - perhaps don't buy a Lotto ticket this week).

I'm still nutty about nuts (there's a macadamia reference in my latest post as I write this) and risking all by nibbling TWO Brazils a day. No hair loss yet, if you were wondering.


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