Friday, 14 January 2011

Monkey Pots

A few Saturdays before Christmas, my friend Jeannine and I came across a small crop of "monkey pots" for sale at the side of the road.

Locally known as Trinidad Brazil nut, they are in fact related to the conventional Brazil nut as they all belong to the lecythis family (Lecythidaceae) which also includes the cannonball tree (Couroupita guianensis). The pod-like capsule is heavy and solid rather like a custom made pot and it has a detachable cover which pops off when the nuts are ready. In our case we had to give it a little help and gently prised it open after about a week.

Inside the large "pot" are a series of nuts that line the sides of the pod. Each nut is nestled in place, stacked companionably against its neighbour.

Every nut is attached to an fatty appendage that is likely to provide sustenance once the seed has germinated.

Apparently monkeys are very fond of this nut and are known to reach in and remove the nuts which are similar to Brazil nuts. Hence the name "monkey pot". It is also known as paradise nut.

When a nut was peeled, this is what it looked like. We all tasted it, assuming that if the monkeys ate it without harm, we should be safe. It was quite bland and oily and not as "nutty" and crisp as the conventional Brazil nut. I'm not sure that I would eat it again because after running a search through Google, there seemed to be some data showing the potential for selenium poisoning. Hmmm. We are alive to tell the tale but I would not recommend randomly eating this nut without further research. But it is a fascinating pod to see. The way the nuts are packaged in this pod (complete with lid) is wonderful. I would really like to see the forest tree that grows these pods. I can only imagine that it would have to be enormous to support the weight of its extraordinary crop.


islandgitl246 said...

Girl you are a brave one LOL. I wouldn't dare try that!

bunty said...

My friend Marion on Cascade Main Rd. has a tree in her garden. It is a huge elegant tree that sheds its leaves in the dry season. But before shedding, the leaves turn gold.

We've eaten lots of the nuts without mishap.

And btw Happy New Year!

jeannette said...

Very interesting -didn't know about this nut! Thanks for sharing:)

antigonum cajan said...

Could you share the botanical inventory with your intercontinental readers?

My Chutney Garden said...

Thanks everyone for posting. And thank you especially to Bunty for vouching for the safety of the nut! Jeannine also tried to roast them but they did not hold up very well.
@Antigonum - I'd be happy to try and share the botanical inventory but not really sure that I understand the context. You can inbox me at

WizzyTheStick said...

It was lovely learning about this local nut.

George de Verteuil said...

Interesting subject. It's proper name is Sapucaia Nut (Lecythis zabucajo,family Lecythidaceae). It is not native to Trinidad. but comes from tropical South America (Colombia to Brazil). However it is fairly common and grows well in Trinidad, common in the Sangre Grande. I find the nuts as tasty as Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa) and have never heard of any danger to health.
George deV