Brazil nut is known to most people as the largest nut in a can of mixed nuts, but other than that, most people know little about it, even that it comes from an Amazon rainforest tree of the same name or that it really is a seed, not a nut. Despite its name, Brazil nut is technically a seed rather than a nut. By definition, nuts are hard-shelled fruits that contain a single large seed. Walnuts and pistachios are good examples.
Walnuts from the Brazil nut tree are truly delicious oil seeds. As in the case of many other “nuts”, they are not nuts, but seeds.
Brazil nutshave no skin, they are very light in color and soft. Brazil nuts tend to be a little denser, are easy to crush and aren't too hard.
These delicious tree nuts are “fleshy” and have a different texture than cashew nuts or peanuts. It takes about 14 months for the fruit to ripen once pollinated. The resulting fruit is quite large (4-6 inches (10-15 cm). Within the hard, woody shell, 8 to 24 clearly triangular seeds reside packed together like orange wedges.
These seeds are what we call Brazil nuts. Nuts, botanically speaking, are actually an indehiscent fruit with a hard shell like an acorn. Growing your own Brazil nuts will require a little patience, and while difficult, it's a rewarding endeavor. While some specialty grocery stores sell Brazil nuts, you can't beat the convenience of having them shipped to your door.
Brazil nuts are commonly eaten raw or blanched and are high in protein, dietary fiber, thiamine, selenium, copper, and magnesium. In North America, as early as 1896, Brazil nuts were sometimes referred to as black-fingered slang, a vulgarity that gradually ceased to be used as racial slur became socially unacceptable. You may not have thought about it, but Brazil nuts are really a big problem, adding tens of millions to South American economies every year. The fruit of the Brazil nut is similar to coconuts, typically round shells measuring between 10 and 15 cm in diameter and containing between 18 and 20 seeds that have their own hard, woody shell.
Because of this, although tree plantations have been attempted in Brazil, natural cultivation has proven to be more reliable. The Brazil nut is a large tree, reaching 50 m (160 ft) in height and has a trunk 1 to 2 m (3 ft 3 in to 6 ft 7 in) in diameter, making it one of the largest trees in the Amazon rainforest. This, along with the process of harvesting, shelling and shipping Brazil nuts, makes their cost a little higher. Brazil walnut wood (not to be confused with Brazil wood) is of excellent quality and has a variety of uses, from flooring to heavy construction.
The fruit itself is a large capsule 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) in diameter, resembling the size of a coconut endocarp and weighing up to 2 kg (4 lb 7 oz). Most Brazil nuts are already sold shelled, not only for ease of consumption, but also because of safety regulations in many countries.