Thursday, July 14, 2011

Candle Nuts

Ms de Sousa stands under a candle nut tree.
I met 60-year old Etalvina de Sousa up a dusty road in rural eastern Timor-Leste today. She's a farmer and one of her crops is candle nuts. If you wear cosmetics, you may be wearing some of Ms de Sousa's candle nuts. The nuts are used in, among other things, cosmetics. Locally, the meat of the candle nut is smashed and then mixed with cotton to make candles!

She's got 36 trees and carries the nuts in a sack on her back down to her house where she shells them and then sells them to a buyer. She can carry about 20 pounds of candle nuts in one trip.

Shelling the candle nut is an art form.
The shelling process is an art form -- she uses a piece of a hardened tropical leave as the tool. She inserts the candle nut into a hole at the end of the leaf and then hits it once or twice on a piece of rock. If done correctly, the whole candle nut pops out. She told me it takes her about two hours to shell one kilogram of candle nuts.

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