Lecythidaceae (Brazil nut family)

Description. Evergreen tree with arching branches, 25-40 m (80-130 ft) tall. Alternate, simple, glabrous leaves, 5-15 cm (2-6 in) long by 3-7 cm (1.2-2.8 in) wide, elliptic to obovate to oblong-lanceolate. White, purple-tinged, or purple flowers with 6 petals and numerous stamens are produced in terminal panicles. Fruits are dark brown, hard woody capsules with a lid that falls off at maturity. Fruits contain 10-40 oval purple seeds, 5-7 cm (22.8 in) long, with longitudinal ridges and a cream-colored, edible aril.

Benefits Of: PARADISE NUT, SAPUCAIA Photo Gallery

Origin and Distribution. Native to humid tropical regions of northern South America from Colombia and Venezuela south to Brazil and Peru. It grows as a canopy tree in evergreen lowland rainforests. The tree is rarely cultivated as a fruit tree except in small plantations in Brazil, despite its superior-quality seeds.

Food uses. The nutritious seeds are eaten raw or roasted. The taste is said to be equal or even superior to the Brazil nut (Berthollethia excelsa, p. 40), which belongs to the same family. The seeds are also used for bakery goods and as garnish on desserts and ice cream. The aril is edible and tastes like licorice.

Comments. The tasty and nutritious paradise nut has a lot of potential for commercial production and for sustainable usage of tropical rainforests. In the wild, the arils with attached seeds are sought by different bat species, in particular the greater spearnosed bat (Phyllostomus hastatus), the main seed disperser. The hard shells of the paradise nut are also opened by agoutis and squirrels.

Description. Large evergreen tree with a dense rounded crown, 30-50 m (100-165 ft) tall. Alternate, glossy dark green leaves elliptic to lanceolate, 1228 cm (5-11 in) long by 3-8 cm (1.2-3 in) wide. New leaves are attractively purple-red in color. Small white, sweetly fragrant flowers are borne in terminal pyramidal panicles. Fruits ovoid, pyriform, or of irregular shape with a rough brown skin and fibrous, soft, orange-yellow to dark yellow, sweet pulp. The flavor and texture of the flesh are similar to pumpkin pie filling. Fruits contain a single round to oblong, large brown seed.

Origin and Distribution. The sansapote grows naturally in southern Mexico, throughout most of Central America and in northern Colombia. The tree is often planted as an ornamental and shade tree because of its beautiful, dense foliage and fragrant flowers but is very rarely cultivated outside its natural range. The sansapote grows in tropical climates under dry or humid conditions.

Food uses. Fully ripe fruits are eaten fresh by scooping the soft flesh with a spoon.

Comments. Although the fruit has a sweet, agreeable flavor, its appeal is often diminished by the high content of fiber and by insect damage to the developing fruit. The reddish, heavy heartwood is of good quality and used in furniture making and construction.

Description. Evergreen tree with a dense rounded crown, 12-30 m (40-100 ft) tall. Alternate, pinnately compound leaves 10-20 cm (4-8 in) long with 4-8 leaflets that are 4-8 cm (1.6-3 in) long, elliptic to lanceolate, and glossy dark green. Small, fragrant yellowish, white, or greenish flowers are borne in terminal panicles. Red or pink fruits round, ovoid, or heart-shaped, about 3-4 cm (1.2-1.6 in) long by 2.5 cm (1 in) wide, with a warty, rough, leathery skin. Sweet, aromatic, translucent to white flesh contains a single shiny dark brown seed. Origin and Distribution. Native to southern China, where the lychee has been cultivated for at least 3,000 years. The tree was praised and pictured in Chinese literature, with the earliest known record in AD 1059. Extensively cultivated throughout tropical and subtropical Asia, especially in China and northern India. More recently also grown on a commercial scale in the southern United States, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, and Australia. The tree requires a warm subtropical or cool tropical climate without frost and with high rainfall during the summer months.

Food uses. Lychees are usually eaten fresh. The flesh can be used in fruit salads and in a great variety of desserts. Peeled and seeded fruits are sometimes filled with cream cheese or ice cream. They are also used in savory beef and chicken dishes. In Asia, lychees are made into pickles, sauces, jellies, and even wine. Seeded lychees are blended with cream, sugar, and lime juice to make a delicious sherbet. For export the seeded fruits are canned in syrup. Dried lychees, often called litchi nuts, are used like raisins.

Comments. Lychees contain about 72 mg (0.003 oz) vitamin C per 100 g (0.22 lbs) flesh. They are also a good source of polyphenols. The more than 40 culti-vars differ mainly in skin color and also in texture, fragrance, flavor, form of the seed, and even color of the flesh. The hard wood is used in construction and furniture manufacturing.

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