Did you know? The deforestation of the Cerrado can be seen from space.
Did you know? The deforestation of the Cerrado can be seen from space.
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. A blueberry was then 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: not nuts at all, but tubers with a similar appearance to nuts, also sometimes yellow and “striped” (known as chufas in Spanish, and many other names around the globe).
There’s plenty of misnomers in the food industry if one looks close enough. But what about baru?
We can find many 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.
What? Well, 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 among native speakers!
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. This may be partially explained by the Native American, African and Portuguese culinary heritage in Brazil, barely incorporating 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, there’s a Portuguese idiom referring to cheap things as “[something] priced as bananas”. All things considered, why would anyone 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, the term “almonds” refers to specifically 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.
Hi folks! There’s a story we have to tell you about Baru. A lot of people got curious about the name. What is the origin of “baru” as a name? How did it come about? It was a very interesting research.
There are several names for the Dipteryx alata tree, such as “Barujo”, “Coco-feijão”, “Cumarurana”, “Emburena-brava”, “Feijão-coco”, and “Pau-cumaru”. “Baru“, however, is the most common one in Brazil, and comes from the Native Brazilian Tupi word “kumba’ru”.
But “kumba’ru” originally referred to the Dipteryx odorata tree, which bears the famous Tonka, or Tonquin, Beans and is nowadays referred to in Brazilian Portuguese as Cumaru. However, somewhere down the road, both Cumaru and Baru trees were being called “Cumbaru” and “Cumaru” by common folk, due to the resemblance of both trees.
In some places in Brazil, that confusion with the species still happens because both have similar wood, leaves and similar shaped fruits and seeds. However, they are reasonably different Legumes sharing a similar ancestry.
The Cumaru grows in the rainforests of South and Central America, has a green, fleshy fruit, and its seeds have a very particular “wet grass” smell, prized by chefs (kumba’ru also meant “spice”). In contrast, baru trees grow in the South American savanna, have dry, brown fruits, and their seeds have no perceivable smell.
Above all, both plants play an important role in their respective biomes. Both provide food for the fauna by the end of the dry season; both rely on that same fauna to have their seeds spread throughout their environment. And unfortunately, industrial agriculture is deforesting both their biomes.
In future posts, we’ll explain a bit of the history and genetics of Dipteryx alata. Hope you liked it!
Fonseca H. Pernambucânia: O que há nos nomes das nossas cidades. 2015. Brazil: Companhia Editora de Pernambuco. Recife, PE, Brazil.
Hanson T. The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History. 2015. Basic Books.
Leite VG, Mansano VF, Teixeira SP. 2014. Floral ontogeny in Dipterygeae (Fabaceae) reveals new insights into one of the earliest branching tribes in papilionoid legumes. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2014, 174, 529–550.
Navarro EA. Método moderno de tupi antigo: a língua do Brasil dos primeiros séculos. 3rd edition. São Paulo, SP, Brazil. Brazil: Global. 2005. p. 9.
A Master’s dissertation was published back in 2014 in Brazil describing the effect of a baru diet in obese women. Its conclusion? Eating 20g of baru seeds every day reduced body fat. It also improved lipid profile and increased antioxidant activity in overweight women.
Mind you, this is referring to a normocaloric diet.
The article has a wealth of information and comparative tables with other nuts and seeds. Furthermore, it also describes other effects from a baru diet, such as hip size reduction.
For those of you who can read Portuguese, it is even more interesting!
Check it out: Souza, R. G. M. (2014). Effect of baru almonds consumption associated to isoenergetic on body composition, serum lipids and antioxidant enzymes activities in overweight/obese women. (Master’s Dissertation). Universidade Federal de Goiás, 2014.
Hi everyone! We’ve just added a “Research” page on the website, directing you to the latest scientific data on Baru seeds health benefits in English. Whenever we see a new article, it will be added to that page.
Live well, eat baru!