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.


I was lucky to be in Cambridge MA for the big winter storm that swept through Boston on Wednesday. The storm was dramatic and beautiful. It is remarkable to see a landscape transformed so completely. I am just here for a week so I feel very fortunate to have witnessed a true winterscape. Coming from the tropics, it's wonderful to see nature in action in such a powerful way.
The winter dormancy is a fascinating thing to me. It is a reminder about the importance of hibernation. Tropical people are sometimes like our landscape - brightly coloured, flamboyant, and incessantly moving. The constant motion of the tropics means things grow quickly. The constant hothouse ambiance carrying us from one event to the other with very little time for rest and reflection.
With just two seasons do we take different lessons from the land? As beautiful as Trinidad is, I miss nature's lesson that a bud encased in ice will burst into bloom in spring.