Brazil nut trees produce fruit almost exclusively in pristine forests, as disturbed forests lack the large-body bees which are the only ones capable of pollination of the tree's flowers.
The Brazil nut tree's yellow flowers contain very sweet nectar and can only be pollinated by a bug strong enough to lift the coiled hood on the flower and with a tongue long enough to negotiate the complex coiled flower. For this reason, the Brazil nut's reproduction depends on the presence of the orchid Coryanthes vasquezii, which does not grow on the Brazil nut tree itself. The orchids produce a scent that attracts small male long-tongued orchid bees, as the male bees of that species need that scent to attract females. The large female long-tongued orchid bee pollinates the Brazil nut tree. Without the orchid, the bees do not mate, and therefore the lack of bees means the fruit does not get pollinated.
You can find 103 to 270 fruits per tree in a forest in southeastern Amazonian Brazil and a mean seed number per fruit of 17.5.
Europe and North America buy about 7000 tons of unshelled nuts and 20 000 tons of shelled nuts.
In 2008 ,, 78 315 tons of Brazil nuts were produced, 42000 tons by Bolivia (subsidized production) , 30815 tons by Brazil (over 100k tons in 1970, and 40k tons in 1980-- continuous decline due to deforestation), 5200 tons by Cote' d'Ivoire (stated so by FAO.org, however I cannot find any evidence that there are any brazil nuts there at all), and 300 tons by Peru. Biggest producer per capita is Bolivia with 4 kg of nuts produced per each citizen. Globally, only 11.4 grams of (unshelled) nuts are available pr potential consumer.
Unshelled Brazil nuts can cost anywhere from $1000 to $3500 a ton, depending on many factors and not including many expenses. In your local Kroger you will find it at $4 a pound around Cristmas time, and in specialized sources online at $2.25-2.5 per pound. Shelled Brazil nuts sell for $6-8 per pound, however they get rancid pretty fast. Once I opened a seemingly healthy shell only to find a squishy brownish looking kernel that smelled exactly as rotten fish guts.
Global value of the crop is around $18-20 million( probably 3 times more of that in retail ). It could feed 735 000 people at 2000 calories a day (Guyana has a similar population). There is enough protein for 645 000 people at 50g/day.
Brazil nuts have by far more Selenium than any other food. Selenium is a huge immune booster . There is also Radium, 1000 times more than in a regular soil or sedimentary rock. Radium is 1 000 000 times more radioactive than Uranium, just a FYI. Nevertheless I personally eat them daily and consider it to be one of the healthiest foods available, and I am pretty sure that having reasonably high amounts of Selenium in your system helps prevent or delay that dreaded cancer.
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