In fact, Brazil nuts grow naturally only in regions with a dry season of three to five months (Müller, 1988). In the eastern part of Amazonian Brazil, flowering begins at the end of the rainy season in September and extends until February. Maximum flowering occurs in October, November and December (Moritz, 1988). A lot is needed for the development of a Brazil nut.
Brazil chestnut trees bloom during the dry season (basically in autumn). After the flowers are pollinated, the tree bears fruit and takes a full 15 months to develop. Brazil walnut trees bloom at the beginning of the rainy season; each flower lasts only one day. The flowers that open before dawn one morning fall in the late afternoon.
Gradually, the forest floor is covered with cream-colored flowers, the size of a marble to a golf ball, which attract deer and large nocturnal rodents called pacas. Ripe pods fall in the rainy season. Once bees have pollinated flowers, fruits can take up to 12 months or longer to develop (Ortiz, 2002; Wadt, et al. The fruit produced is an extremely hard spherical pod that contains between 10 and 25 large seeds or edible Brazil nuts (Haugaasen & Haugassen, 20.
As the rainy season progresses, mature seed pods (called “coconuts” by collectors) fall from the treetops to the forest floor. Larger seed pods can weigh up to 2.5 kilos (Mori & Prance, 1990), so as a safety measure, nut pickers avoid harvesting areas until most of the “coconuts” are in the ground. Plant in late spring or early summer, when temperatures are consistently warm, above 70°F. Brazil nuts are a beautiful tree that can grow massively and produce nuts for hundreds of years if given the right conditions.
Ortiz and Forsyth know that it's not just biology that will make the chestnut and tree business healthier for chestnut trees and trees. Brazil chestnut trees can take up to 20 years to produce nuts, so this is a project that requires a lot of patience. The Portuguese arrived in Brazil and began sending tempting samples of the New World on ships loaded with gold and jaguars. The Brazil nuts you buy in the store have been processed, usually by boiling them, so that they do not germinate.
Ortiz and his colleague Adrian Forsyth describe their research objective as protecting chestnut forests based on the ecological, economic and social viability of harvesting chestnuts from natural forests. But, despite their popularity, many of us have no idea of the fact that almost all Brazil nuts come from the Amazon rainforests, hand-picked by forest-living collectors, as Manuel Guariguata, CIFOR's lead scientist in ecology and management of tropical forests, tells me since his office in Peru, “Brazil nuts are the only internationally traded nut that comes from nature, so it is very unique”. Since the pods are very heavy and the trees are so tall, you don't want to be around in the rainy season (usually starting in January) when they start to fall. There are some chestnut plantations spread throughout northern Brazil, but most of the production occurs in the wild, from December to March.
It was they who named the Brazilian walnut tree Bertholletia excelsa, in honor of Humboldt's friend, chemist and salon presenter Claude Louis Berthollet. Now, my beautiful Brazil nut trees tower above my garden, providing shade and hundreds of pounds of healthy nuts each year. Unfortunately, the chestnut harvest depends on a large, unchanged habitat for trees, as well as pollinator bees and rodents that spread seeds. The rains are delayed by a couple of weeks and, since rain is needed for Brazil pods to fall, harvesting may be a little later this year.