Nuts Throughout History- Brazil Nuts and Walnuts

October 16, 2014

It’s Thursday, today is that day across the web that people and companies “throwback” and reminisce about the past.  As we dig through our files and pictures to grab a piece of our history, we are reminded by the long history of nuts.  Here is a sneak peek into the history of nut cultivation, our own take one throwback Thursday. #TBT.

Nuts Throughout History

From old Anglo-Saxon literature to religious texts, nuts have been documented as sources of nutrition throughout history. Almonds and pistachios are mentioned by name in the bible, while other nuts can be found in works of Shakespeare. Today, it’s no different. Nuts have been proven to be quality sources of protein and healthy fats and are key drivers in weight loss. Many historians also believe modern agriculture began with the harvesting and storage of nuts. Because of their predictable growth patterns and long storage life, nuts were ideal crop for early civilizations.

Brazil Nuts

Towering up to 200 feet high, the trees of the Brazil nut are some of the largest and most dominating trees in the Amazon, and their canopy-like branches and flowers provide both food and habitat alike for inhabitants of the forest. A single mature Brazil nut tree can produce more than 250 pounds of nuts a year, yet Brazil nuts are one of the world’s “smaller” tree nut crops, with roughly 20,000 metric tons harvested each year. Surprisingly, Brazil isn’t even the main supplier of Brazil nuts. That honor lies with Bolivia, who accounts for roughly 50% of the world’s Brazil nut harvest. The Brazil nut industry – a $50 million industry – provides livable income for thousands of South American families. While Brazil nut plantations do exist, it’s been found that trees located in pristine forests produce many more nuts than those in plantations. Because of this, migrant workers, known as “castanheiros”, make a living by harvesting wild Brazil nuts. Harvesting Brazil nuts is a dangerous, and often fatal, endeavor. The “fruit” of a Brazil nut tree resembles a coconut, complete with a hard shell, and can weigh up to 5 pounds. Falling Brazil nut fruits have been known to do damage to cars, homes and the castanheiros harvesting them.


One of the oldest living tree foods known to man, walnuts have been harvested and eaten since as early as 7,000 B.C. The Romans called walnuts Juglans regia, or “Jupiter’s royal acorn”, while the Persians reserved walnuts for royalty. In the 4th century AD, the ancient Romans introduced the walnut into many European countries where it has been grown since. The walnut tree provides harvesters with more than just food, it’s also useful in making medicine, dyes and lamp oil. As of 2012, China is the largest commercial producer of walnuts in the world, with about 1.7 million metric tons produced per year. The United States comes in at third, just behind Iran, with just over 425,000 metric tons of production. California, as we’ve previously mentioned, is by far the nuttiest state. When it comes to walnuts, it’s no different. Producing nearly 500,000 tons of walnuts in 2013, California is responsible for 99% of the country’s walnuts. Today the nut trade continues to be a well-established, ordered, and structured business, and the California walnut is well known as the top quality walnut for the world.

Tags: Brazil Nuts, nut cultivation, walnuts

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