Brazilian Gold

This month, athletes from all over the world are converging on Rio de Janeiro to compete in the 31st Summer Olympiad. Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is hoping to win an unprecedented triple-double: three straight Olympic gold medals in both the 100 and 200 meter dashes. Simone Biles of the U.S. is a favorite to capture the all-around title in women’s gymnastics and American swimmers Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps (his 5th Olympics!) will splash for gold in their respective events. Two superstars native to Brazil won’t be competing in the games, but they are unconventional champions in their own right.  They don’t run, jump, swim or box, but they sure can pack a powerful, nutritional punch.

Brazil nut trees are indigenous to the rainforests of the Amazon River basin in Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Columbia and Bolivia. They can grow up to 165 feet tall and live for 500-700 years with some making it to the millennial mark. Brazil nuts are the only commercial nut crop to be harvested exclusively from wild, pristine forests. Efforts to cultivate them on plantations have not been economically viable. Brazil nut trees do best in undisturbed rainforest ecosystems and are dependent on certain species of wild, rainforest orchid bees for pollination of their flowers. It takes about 14 months to produce the hard, spherical fruit capsule that resembles a coconut. Each fruit capsule contains 10 to 25 nuts and requires an ax or machete to cut into it to release the nuts. That is, unless you are an agouti, a large rodent of the rainforest that resembles a guinea pig and is equipped with extremely strong, sharp incisor teeth. Agoutis are important in the natural propagation of Brazil nut trees. They chew through the fruit capsule and eat some of the nuts, then bury the rest for a future meal. Some of these cached nuts are left forgotten and sprout up to become the next generation of Brazil nut trees. This is a classic example of a symbiotic relationship that benefits both organisms. According to the Amazon Conservation Association, the harvesting of Brazil nuts provides an income for thousands of Amazon families and protects several million acres of rainforest from deforestation. What’s good for the agouti is also good for you. A one ounce serving of Brazil nuts (about 6 nuts) provides 2 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein and the following percentages of Daily Values (DV): thiamine- 15%, vit. E- 10%, magnesium- 30% and zinc- 12%. Brazil nuts are also the richest known source of selenium, a trace mineral with potent antioxidant properties important in thyroid and immune function. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona, in conjunction with Cornell University found that optimal levels of selenium resulted in lower incidences of lung, colon, prostate and rectal cancers. Those 6 nuts will get you about 500% of your DV for selenium, but be careful since too much can be toxic. Most sources recommend no more than 4-6 nuts if they are going to be eaten on a daily basis.

Cashew trees are native to northeastern Brazil. They grow to be about 40 feet tall, but dwarf trees half that size are commonly planted in commercial orchards. Portuguese sailors brought cashew trees to Goa, India and from there they spread to Southeast Asia and Africa. Vietnam, Nigeria and India are now the leading producers but we have Brazil to thank for being the cashew’s country of origin. Always a nut snacking favorite, cashews are now culinary stars as well, especially in vegan preparations. Their sweet flavor and rich, creamy texture makes them an ideal ingredient in non-dairy sauces, smoothies, vegan cheeses and ice creams. A one ounce serving (about a handful) supplies 5 grams of protein and the following daily values: thiamine- 10%, B6- 10%, magnesium- 23%, manganese- 20% and zinc- 17%.

The restaurant formerly known as EVO has been transformed into Bootleggers Prohibition Pub. Experience a whole new vibe with a brand new menu in the same locale with the same award winning chef, Albert Maykel and CEO Celeste Maykel-Zack. Speak easy and whisper the secret password when you come on August 16 for the audacious opening!