The three-sided, hard, dark-shelled Brazil nut grows in clusters at the end of thick branches inside coconut-like pods called cocos (Portuguese). The nut is grown in the Amazon rain forests of Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador. The Brazil nut tree is enormous, reaching a height of 100 to 150 feet or more. It can also live a long life of 500 to 800 years. (The trees grow very slowly, taking as long as 10 to 30 years before they produce nuts.) They require a specific species of bee to pollinate the flowers (which produce the fruit) and a small ground mammal called the agouti to break open the pods and spread the seeds. For these reasons, the Amazon is the only place these nuts have been grown successfully.
From January to June when the fruit is ripe, it falls from the tree, usually with a loud crashing sound. Inside each fruit pod are 12 to 25 Brazil nuts, each within its own individual shell. Older Brazil nut trees can produce approximately 300 or more of these fruit pods annually. The pods are gathered when they have fallen from the trees and then must be chopped open in order to obtain the nuts. Brazil nuts taste rich and creamy, and their meat is similar in texture to coconut. These nuts can be eaten raw, roasted and salted.