Brazil nuts are actually edible seeds from the Brazil nut tree, and they can be eaten raw or blanched. The nuts grow inside a round, coconut-like shell, in orange-like segments that, when split open, reveal about 12-20 Brazil nuts. These coconut shells grow high in trees found in the Amazonian forests of Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador, and when ready to be harvested, will fall to the floor of the forest.
But it’s how these trees come to be, that shows the true magic behind a Brazil nut.
Enter the Agouti, a large rodent which is native to South America, and crucial to the growth of new Brazil nut trees.
The Agouti will harvest the ‘coconut shells’ from the forest floors, collecting them as they drop. Using their incredibly tough jaws, and chisel-sharp front teeth, the Agouti will gnaw open the hard outer pod which encases the seeds – giving them access to the individual seeds which they will then open to get to the nuts.
The Agouti will then eat several nuts and hide some for later. It’s these hidden nuts which sometimes get forgotten, and then go on to grow into new trees! Thus, the Agouti plays an essential part in the seed dispersal and regeneration of the Brazil nut trees’ lifecycle.
To highlight, and celebrate, the importance of these little rodent, Crazy Jack (the home of organic dried fruits and nuts) have shared some of its favourite facts about the Agouti, for Organic September…
• Agouti are related to guinea pigs and look quite similar, but with longer legs
• They have short hairless tails and may grow to be up to 60cm in length, and 4kg in weight
• When feeding, Agoutis sit on their hind legs and hold food between their forepaws – much like a squirrel would do!
• They eat fallen fruit, leaves and roots, although may sometimes climb trees to eat green fruit – which they will then hoard in small buried stores!
• Agouti can live for as a long as twenty years, which is remarkably long for a rodent
And they are regarded the only species that can open Brazil nuts without tools, thanks to their strength and exceptionally sharp teeth.
So, the next time you take a bite of a Brazil nut, give a little thanks to nature and how it works in unison to provide us with this delicious nut. And just remember, if we could give the Agouti a voice, they’d ask us to choose organic, to not only protect them but to save their habitat also – as with no rainforest, there would be no Agouti, and no Agouti would mean no more Brazil nuts.
You can do your part for the planet by choosing organic, to not only help the Agouti, but the ladybirds, bees, worms, and butterflies too, which are just as important in helping to build a flourishing ecosystem.