Today we’re gonna discuss the different ways baru seeds are referred to in English. See, it’s a tricky thing to do because there’s so much Culture Shock when introducing food in a market, and quite often the translation is only approximate.
It’s what happened with bilberries, marketed as blueberries in Japan in 1998 because nobody there knew what a bilberry was, and a blueberry was the closest comparison (let us bear in mind that this was during the early days of the internet, so information wasn’t as widely and readily available). The same thing happened with tiger nuts, which are not nuts at all, but tubers with a similar appearance to nuts, also sometimes yellow and “striped” (known as chufas in Spanish, any many other names around the globe).
There’s plenty of misnomers in the food industry if one looks close enough. But how about baru?
We can find scientific articles and websites originally referring to baru seeds in English as baru nuts and baru almonds. Baru, however, is botanically unrelated to tree nuts or almonds.
Now, this is Culture Shock at its best. Both words, almonds and nuts, in Brazilian Portuguese, can refer to edible seeds from a hard shell, except when specifically referring to walnuts or hazelnuts. It creates confusion even between native speakers!
To be quite frank, the underlying reason for this lack of vernacular precision might be that Brazilians are not big on nuts and seeds, even when it comes to native ones such as Cashew or Brazil nuts. Except during Christmas, when it’s a tradition, we don’t snack on them that often. A reflection of this is that we’re not exceptionally creative with them in savory dishes when compared to other cultures, which may be partially explained by the African and Portuguese culinary heritage we have. Neither of them is rich in peanuts or nuts compared to Indian or Southeastern Asian cuisine, for example.
On top of that, Brazil has a wide variety of tropical fruits, growing all year round, all very affordable and literally everywhere. For example, we have a Portuguese idiom referring to cheap things as “[something] is priced as bananas”. All things considered, why would you even pay attention to seeds and nuts?
Due to a complete lack of media coverage in English about baru, we at Baru Baron mistakenly decided to call baru seeds “Baru Almonds” when first started, after noticing the majority of online scientific articles referring to them as such.
In time, however, it proved to be a poor decision. Calling them so ended up being quite confusing for the public during demos, since in English, “almonds” refer to Prunus dulcis, and nothing else. Not that calling them “Baru Nuts” would be so much better, since baru seeds are botanically Legumes and not tree nuts. And “Baru seeds”, again because of Culture Shock, didn’t sound right at first. Nobody calls them that in Portuguese!
It’s not too late though, and from now on we’ll refer to them as “Baru seeds” (or simply “Baru”), because that’s what they are after all. Our marketing material will soon be entirely replaced taking this terminology into consideration, as well as packagings and next products.
We also urge the Brazilian scientific community, when referring to baru seeds in English, to stop using the terms “almond” and “nut”, since they’re misleading, botanically wrong and take into consideration literal translations.
Invenire Market Intelligence. Berries in the World. Introduction to the international market of berries. SITRA, 2008. Accessed 01/06/2017 in: https://media.sitra.fi/2017/02/28141842/Berries20in20the20world-2.pdf
Sánchez-Zapata E, Fernández-López J, Angel Pérez-Alvarez J. (2012), Tiger Nut (Cyperus esculentus) Commercialization: Health Aspects, Composition, Properties, and Food Applications. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 11: 366–377. doi:10.1111/j.1541-4337.2012.00190.x
Wojciechowski MF, Lavin M, Sanderson MJ. A phylogeny of legumes (Leguminosae) based on analysis of the plastid matK gene resolves many well-supported subclades within the family. Am. J. Bot. November 2004 vol. 91 no. 11 1846-1862.