Suggested topic #9: The Brazil nut is neither a nut nor from Brazil. Discuss.
Court Officer: Court is now in session. Please be seated.
The Court: Mr. McBirney, please proceed.
Mr. McBirney: Thank you, your Honor. I’d like to call the Defendant, Mr. Excelsa.
<Defendant takes the stand>
Court Officer: Raise your right hand. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
Defendant: I don’t have hands. But I do swear to tell the whole truth and nothing else.
Court Officer: Be seated.
<Defense approaches the witness>
Mr. McBirney: Please state your name, address and occupation for the record.
Defendant: My legal name is Bertholletia Excelsa but most people call me Brazil Nut. I come from Cobija in the Pando region of Bolivia. I am a seed.
Q. Could you tell the jury about your family?
A. My family is Lecythidaceae, in the order Ericales. We are related to blueberries, cranberries, tea, gooseberries, phlox and persimmons.
Q. Thank you, now, could you tell the jury about your educational background?
A. I don’t have a formal degree. I spent my formative years in a fruit pod, grown at the top of an enormously tall tree in the Amazon rainforest.
Q. Were you alone in that pod?
A. No sir, there were 24 of us.
Q. Could you describe to the jury what happened on May 13 of this year?
A. Sure, sure. It was a typical day in our tree. We were hanging there in our pod minding our own business, you know? It had been really wet and the branches were hanging low. A late afternoon storm came up and we tried to hang on, really we did, but our pod was heavy, right? We were mature and, and the pod - it was thick and woody and really, really heavy, about 4 pounds! We couldn’t hang on to our tree. So we fell. And it was a long way down, over 80 feet! A guy was walking by – I mean, what kind of idiot does that, just goes for a walk in the rainforest?
Ms. Hoover: Objection, your honor!
The Court: Sustained. Mr. Excelsa, just tell us the facts.
A. Ok, ok. So this guy walking through the forest passed right under our tree, at the exact same time that we lost our grip and fell. We landed square on his head, bounced once and fell to the forest floor. The guy was dead before he hit the ground. We were lucky he didn’t land on us.
Q. So what did you do next?
A. The force of the impact caused our pod to split. We all fell out and scattered on the ground. It felt great to be out of that cramped space.
Q. Did you try to help the victim?
A. What could we do? The guy was huge. Besides, we’re seeds. We don’t have a lot of first aid skills. And there is terrible cell phone reception in the rainforest. So we just waited. The next day some castanheiros came by for the harvest and found him. They gathered all of us up – luckily they used separate containers for the guy and us – and took us to the marketplace. That’s the last I saw of the guy.
Mr. McBirney: Thank you sir, that’s all I have for this witness.
The Court: Ms. Hoover, your witness.
Ms. Hoover: Thank you, your Honor.
<Prosecutor approaches the witness>
Q. So, Mr. Excelsa, you claim to be a seed?
A. I am a seed.
Q. And you claim to be from Bolivia?
A. I am from Bolivia.
Q. But you go by the common name “Brazil Nut”?
A. Yes. Well, that’s what most people call me. Some people have another name for me, but it’s not politically-correct and rather demeaning.
Q. Don’t you think it’s misleading to call yourself a nut from Brazil when you are actually a seed from Bolivia?
A. I can’t help it if people don’t know the difference between a nut and a seed. I told you I grew up in a fruit pod and lived there until it split apart. True nuts don’t split – the seed and the fruit are one and the same. In fact, peanuts aren’t nuts either! They’re seeds too, like me. But who wants to eat a Pea-seed?
Q. And your location?
A. Look, my tree is native to Brazil, but not everyone stays in their home town. Did you?
Q. That’s irrelevant sir. Please answer the question.
A. We have to follow the orchids. Our tree has beautiful flowers with long coiled hoods. In order for our fruit pods to grow, the flowers must be pollinated by an insect strong enough to lift the coil. We depend on orchid bees to do this because they have a long tongue to reach the nectar, so we can only flourish where the orchids grow. A lot of my relatives still live in Brazil, but most of us have spread throughout South America. Bolivia is especially popular with my relatives because of their pristine forests.
Q. All right then, Mr. Excelsa. Is it true that you have the potential to cause great harm to humans?
A. No! We are a valuable part of a balanced diet! We have vitamins and minerals, and are the richest dietary source of selenium. Selenium boosts antioxidant activity, is very important for proper functioning of the thyroid gland, and lowers your risk of joint inflammation. We also contain an amino acid called methionine that fights off chronic illness and signs of aging.
Q. How much Selenium do you contain?
A. Well, the amount varies from one Brazil Nut to the other.
Q. Is it true that 1 ounce of Brazil Nuts can contain 10 times the adult U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance for Selenium? More even than the Tolerable Upper Intake Level? And that you also contain Phytic acid, which can prevent absorption of some nutrients, and trace amounts of radium, a radioactive element?
A. Uh, well…Yes, but…but that is if you eat 6-8 of them at one time. No one needs that many. We are the biggest seed in the mixed nut container.
Q. And yet you always seem to be at the top of the container, don’t you Mr. Escelsa? Why is that?
A. That’s the “Brazil Nut Effect”. We are 65% oil so we are lighter than most of the rest of the nut and seed crowd. And we’re kind of delicate. Our high fat content means we go rancid pretty quickly. But we are also creamy and delicious. Our oil can be used as a clock lubricant, for making artist’s paints, and in the cosmetics industry. We are a very well-rounded seed family.
Q. So sir, did you know the victim prior to the accident?
A. No, not personally
Q. But you did recognize him?
A. Not really. All you humans look alike to me.
Q. Did you know the victim was a successful local artist, known for his exquisite carvings?
Q. Did you know that he specialized in carvings made from the fruit of the Brazil Nut tree? In particular, those found near Cobija in the Pando region of Bolivia?
A. <whispers> No
The Court: So noted.
Ms. Hoover: So Mr. Escelsa, do you recognize this carving?
Ms. Hoover: Mr. Escelsa?
The Court: Mr. Escelsa, answer the question.
The Court: Mr. Escelsa, ANSWER THE QUESTION.
Defendant: <visibly upset> Yes! It’s my cousin. He killed them. He killed so many of them. He had to pay!
The Court: Order! Order in the court!
Ms. Hoover. No further questions, your Honor.