Madre de Dios is the only region in Peru to grow the often-colossal Brazil nut tree, which is also found in Bolivia and Brazil. Each tree produces about 300 softball-sized fruits a year, each with an average of 15 Brazil nuts. The trees have a certain pollination system that doesn’t conform to a plantation style set up. So, the trees are scattered about the forest and during the first months of the rainy season castañeros, or the nut collectors, go from tree to tree collecting them. A 50 kg bag will cost somewhere around $75 in Puerto Maldonado, which is a major export and processing center. You can usually find a woman selling small boxes of the nuts (5 soles), coated in sugar, wherever the buses and boats to the lodges wait.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.