Tagua (Ivory nut) – The vegetable ivory of the Amazon region

Tagua seeds are wonderful natural materials from the Amazon basin, which due to their quality were already used in the past as a replacement for the use of ivory, and this, without affecting the natural equilibrium of our environment.

When harvesting Tagua, differently than when hunting for ivory, nobody is hurt or killed. On the contrary, this contributes in a crucial proportion to the preservation of the rain forest. This is because the economic meaning of Tagua seeds guarantees the care and the protection of ivory nut palms from deforestation.

Characteristics of Tagua seeds

Beneath the shell you´ll find the precious tagua seeds

  • 100% ecological
  • strong and durable
  • ivory-coloured
  • versatility in use

History and meaning of the Ivory nut palm

Since the middle of the 19th century, Germany already imported vegetable ivory from Ecuador. A market for Tagua had developed, namely the production of buttons. At the beginning of the Second World War, Tagua was still imported in tons, that large was the demand for the raw material of the Amazonian region.

This has change in the 40’s due to the emergence of synthetic materials. Natural raw materials such as Tagua and untreated cotton lost their importance and were replaced by qualitatively inferior materials which could be produced faster.

Since the 70’s, the demand for the ivory nut increased again, fact which is was due to a stronger environmental awareness. “Back to nature”, to our natural resources, is the slogan for a lot of people. Tagua is a wonderful example in this sense.

Protection of the rain forest, higher incomes for its inhabitants and unique accessories the nature loving consumers!

Cultivation areas

In “taguales”, the ivory nut palm forests, are also found the seeds, which become so hard within a month that they acquire characteristics similar to ivory. The ivory nut palm (Phytelephas macrocarpa) grows in the large Amazon basin, and is therefore found in parts of Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Colombia. The palms can grow up to 1800 m in height and can become 100 years old.

Mama Ocllo gets Tagua nuts from Ecuador and these are turned into buttons in Peru.

Cultivation areas

Tagual in the Amazon basin

In “taguales”, the ivory nut palm forests, are also found the seeds, which become so hard within a month that they acquire characteristics similar to ivory. The ivory nut palm (Phytelephas macrocarpa) grows in the large Amazon basin, and is therefore found in parts of Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Colombia. The palms can grow up to 1800 m in height and can become 100 years old.

Mama Ocllo gets Tagua nuts from Ecuador and these are turned into buttons in Peru.

Ernte von Tagua

Tagua seeds ripe in Mocochas

Tagua seeds ripe in fruit bundles, so-called Mocochas. These are harvested and broken open with a machete, if they have not already fallen down.

The walnut-sized and still soft ivory nuts inside the Mococha are now dried for several months under the strong sun of the Amazonian region, until it becomes almost impossible to distinguish them from ivory in terms of colour, shape and hardness.

Use of Tagua

Knöpfe aus Steinnuss Tagua Mama Ocllo

 Mama Ocllo buttons made of Tagua

The ivory nut palm and its fruits can be used in several ways:

  • Freshly harvested Tagua is turned into cooking oil, drunk as fermented Tagua beer “Chicha de Tagua” or serves as valuable medicine for diabetics.
  • When hardened, ivory nuts are turned into buttons, jewellery, dice or chess pieces.
  • Palm leaves are marvellously suitable as roof coverage for small huts.

Tagua protects the rain forest and is at the same time an important source of income for the inhabitants of Amazonia.