Pinhão – The Brazilian chestnut

PinhãoI know it is autumn here when the pinhão starts falling from the araucária tree. I have an araucária tree right in front of  my house and when the pinhão starts to fall, my deck becomes littered with these brown chestnut like nuts and there is a constant rain of them for weeks. From a distance you can often here them falling in the woods and almost everywhere you go the ground is littered with them.

Although temperatures do drop a little bit during winter here, no leaves on the trees change their color and everything remains green, although as the winter months drag on a little the grasses begin to turn brown and the trees lose their brilliant green because of a lack of water. But, all of these winter changes are subtle. The real indicator that autumn is here and winter is soon starting is the falling pinhão.

Pinhão

This is the seed ball from the Araucária tree.

The pinhão is the seed from the aruacária tree (see my post about the aruacária tree HERE), a pine tree that can be found in southern Brazil, Chile and Australia. The seed begins growing in a tight green ball in about February or March, it continues to grow throughout the year. The next March and beginning of April these seeds turn a beautiful brown and as they continue to expand, eventually their seed ball bursts and the seeds fall to the ground.

The seeds or pinhão as it is called here in Brazil is like a chestnut. It has a woody outside layer and inside is a soft, starchy, nut. When boiled they becoming this lovely soft nut that is a great addition to any kind of dish.

Pinhão

The seed balls all burst!

Every year I make sure that I gather some pinhão and, besides eating them straight out of the pan, I add them to rice, stir fries or even make gnocchi with them. They keep for several months, so it is always nice to get a good collection in the house to boil-up whenever you want.

Because you cannot find pinhão for sale in the USA I will not share a recipe. But instead leave you with some pictures of this beautiful nut.

If you are ever in the south of Brazil in March or April make sure to look out for these!

Cooked pinhão

Cooked pinhão

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Rural Brazil – End of the year views from the countryside

Although my blog is relatively new, six months old, and my posts about living in rural Brazil are even newer, I realized that I had not shared any views of the Brazilian countryside. Brazil is a very large country and quite obviously the area where I live, Serra da Mantiqueira, is not representative of the whole country, but, I hope that these photos will give an idea of how one part of the Brazilian countryside looks.

Happy New Year!!!!

I am not always out of bed when the sun rises, but I do manage to catch a lot of beautiful sunrises while lying in bed, waking up, and looking out of my window. Sunrises are one of the most beautiful times of day here in the Serra da Mantiqueira.
sunrise serra da mantiqueira

Fog and mist are a common sight. I always love it when the fog hangs in the valleys and I can see the tops of distant mountains behind the fog.
fog serra da mantiqueira

On sunny days it seems as though we can see for hundreds of miles.Serra da Mantiqueira

Serra da Mantiqueira

Trees and forests are all around. One of my favorite trees is the pinho bravo which is a pine tree native to Brazil that looks as though it is hundreds of years old. Pinho bravo forests are absolutely breathtaking and I am fortunate to have a little area on my farm that has a gathering of these beautiful trees.

Although everything here seems to look very green there are a lot of flowers and I do manage to get out and take photographs of these beautiful colors that dot the landscape.

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Animal life is all around us. Bird songs fill the air from sunrise to sunset. Although rare to see, this little squirrel paid us a visit recently. Squirrel Serra da Mantiqueira

It seems that he was interested in the bird food that we had put out. We were happy to watch him eat and are hoping to see him come back soon. Squirrel Serra da Mantiqueira

Here in the serra da mantiqueira I have been privileged to witness some of the most amazing cloud formations, night skies, and moons.

Serra da Manitqueira

Serra da Mantiqueira

DSC01195

Not only cloud formations, but beautiful rainbows cross from mountain to mountain!

And, because we live in the countryside there is no abundance of animal skulls and bones. This sits on a dead tree stump outside of my house. Slowly more bones are adorning the stump.Skull

And lastly, cloudy days are not uncommon, but the view of the mountains still remains beautiful!Serra da Mantiqueira

Rural Brazil – Trees and Potatoes

Araucaria Tree: The Brazilian pine tree

Araucaria Tree: The Brazilian pine tree

Last Sunday of the month and that means it’s time to tell you a little bit more about rural life in Brazil. I can’t believe it is almost the end of November and that summer is really here. Days are getting warmer and it seems as though there is no time in the day to do anything else then to tend to the ever growing vegetables and weeds. We are already harvesting lots of vegetables and our fridge and freezer are full to bursting. We have zucchini, spinach, collard, broccoli, lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, and tons and tons of blackberries that I am starting to turn into yummy jam! More vegetables are coming and soon I will hopefully be able to harvest lots of tomatoes.

Being a certified organic farm is wonderful, my husband and I really feel that every time we put something in the ground we are working to build up the soil; we are making it better. A constant topic of conversation in our house and in our work is ‘what do we need to do to make our soil better’. We are always adding things to our soil to make it better and to guarantee that our vegetables will continue to grow healthily and we are maintaining the earth where we work and live. But, we are a little island in the region where we live. We live in a region that is comprised of farmers and people who work the land. But, we are one of the only organic farms.

Two of the primary sources of work in the region where we live is logging and potato planting and harvesting.

Pine trees in the process of being cut down.

Pine trees in the process of being cut down.

All around our farm you see signs of forestation. From my office window I look out onto areas of land planted by eucalyptus and pines. Trees grow fast here, within six years eucalyptus can be harvested and ten years for pines. I always find it sad to see these forested areas as the natural forest of the region where I live is so beautiful. There is so much plant and animal diversity in the natural forests and with the planting of eucalyptus and pine trees these forests are being destroyed.

Looking up to the top of an Araucaria tree

Looking up to the top of an Araucaria tree

One of the native trees to Brazil that I like the most and that suffers due to the forestation is the Araucaria. This is a strange looking pine tree. With a very long trunk and a cluster of branches with large pine needles on the end it is a tree that is so unique to Brazil. The araucaria is not a fast growing pine tree and takes years and years and years to grow. Because of the planting and harvesting of trees in this region a lot of araucaria trees are damaged, primarily during the harvesting because the felling of the pines or eucalyptus causes the araucaria to fall. Unfortunately to replace these trees will take many many decades!

Logging is a big industry here. Driving into town on our dirt road always means at least one encounter with a huge truck carrying an ungodly amount of wood.

The other primary source of work is potatoes. It seems as though this is slowly changing and broccoli crops seem to be creeping into a lot of the fields, but still, there is lots of land that is planted with conventional potato crops. Because the region is so mountainous no potato field is beautifully flat. This year, about 10 minutes from my farm, is a potato field on a vertical hill. No kidding, the field just seems to drop down vertically. It is fully planted with potatoes and while they were preparing the field I would see the tractor making the treacherous trip down the hill tilling the soil. It seems as though there is a challenge between the potato farmers here ‘who can grow on the steepest fields’. This year it is that guy who is winning, it is by far the steepest field I have seen!

The area next to the tilled land (brown soil) is where potatoes are planted this year. It may not look steep from this picture, but trust me, it is!

The area next to the tilled land (brown soil) is where potatoes are planted this year. It may not look steep from this picture, but trust me, it is!

Conventional potatoes are a crop that seem to constantly need spraying with chemical and it is usually this that makes me extremely nervous, worried, and sad. You see here when chemicals are sprayed onto the fields it is not done with the necessary protection that is needed when handling such toxic chemicals. The last month seems to have been potato spraying season and every time I passed a field where people were spraying potatoes I would notice that the only protection they were using was a simple dust mask. A DUST MASK.

Besides destroying the soil with all of the chemicals that are being sprayed onto the potatoes the people who apply these chemicals face serious health risks. I always shudder to think about the people applying those chemicals and hope that one day things will change.

The brown tilled soil is a steep field where potatoes were planted one year!

The brown tilled soil is a steep field where potatoes were planted one year!