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Cashews are so delicious and good for you, but have you ever learned how they grow?
I’m in my (upper – sigh) 40’s and I had NO IDEA that cashews grow the way they do. It’s fascinating and labor intensive – no wonder they are so expensive. I have been given an exciting opportunity which means I’m gonna give it a go in growing and harvesting cashews right here on our homestead.
Where we live there is an online Facebook group for expats ( expatriates who are living in a country which is not their own) in Zambia and it was through that page that I discovered that thousands of cashew seedlings were for sale as a potential cashew farm never materialized. And they were selling them for 30 kwacha each! AWESOME. Kwacha is the local currency and the exchange rate is roughly 12:1. So that means I got them for $2.50 each. A cheap enough experiment if they don’t make it. I only got 3 but imagine if they DO make it and I can grow my own CASHEW NUTS? That would be soooo amazing. Here are my seedlings the day I got them:
I was talking to my neighbor about this, another expat who has lived here for 25 years and she said something about cashews being difficult to harvest and releasing some kind of acid and I thought to myself ” WHAT?!!” ” Why does everything have to be so labor intensive ? Of course I googled it and WOW. It’s so interesting and so odd and another wonder of God’s amazing creation.
As I thought about it and read about it, I realize where I come from in mid western North America we don’t ever see cashew trees in yards but we DO know that they are a healthy but expensive treat. It’s all starting to come together now. Here is what the cashew tree looks like and then again when it fruits !
and a close up of the fruit and attached nut forming If you are like me and had never seen the way a cashew forms on the tree – kinda wacky, huh? At first glance I wondered – is this for real? It gets even crazier. Once the cashew fruit is ripe apparently you can just pluck the fruit off the tree and detach the nut. The fruit is then good for eating – like an apple? COOL……I can’t wait to try a cashew apple.
THEN the nuts are gathered as seen here. It’s interesting that one can even buy ” raw ” cashew nuts because as you read about the process of harvesting cashews – tree to table – then there really is no such thing as totally edible raw cashews. Once the totally raw nuts are gathered they must be roasted. Certainly there are processing plants that do this commercially, here on our homestead and in local villages you can throw them on an open fire – however – extreme caution must be taken. As the outer coating is heated it releases a poison or acid. YIKES!
Once the outer shell has roasted then it’s time to ” crack the nut” Of course this is where all those great phrases come from such as ” she’s a real tough nut to crack” all thanks to the cashews and other nuts 🙂
At this stage, wearing a pair of thick gloves will be important and I won’t show you the pics I found of people’s hands and fingers who roast and crack cashews for a living. Oh my… So with a hammer or hammer like device each individual nut will need to be cracked and the outer shell removed. THEN you finally have the “raw” cashew nut as you and I know and love.
So that’s it – what do you think? Did you know about this? Have you ever tried it or been to a processing plant? If you stick with me for the next couple years I am hoping that I can detail our experience for you. For now…. just letting my seedlings grow. Apparently the best growing conditions for cashew trees are full sun and poor soil conditions. Hey, that describes a good portion of my yard – so this could be good.
Next time you reach for a bag of cashews at the store – think again to the process that takes place to get them there. I know I’m not alone in my desire that children and adults alike have a good grasp of where their food comes from. And not from the store. – wink wink – as a lot of children ( and some adults) will tell you.
It is widely know that nuts are good for you. Cashews included providing a healthy dose of B vitamins, important minerals like magnesium and also Vitamin K plus the beneficial plant based protein! Here is a great article detailing cashew nutrition benefits.
I simply love the taste of oven roasted cashews – no seasoning needed. They are so creamy and nutty! Then again there are some delicious ways to flavor or season cashews – my fave being chili and lime. And then there’s chocolate….always goes good with nuts. Check out my post for an easy recipe for sugared peanuts – but now it’s got me thinking – I bet I can do that with cashews too? YES, or any nut ! Yum..
Have a fabulous day and leave your nutty experiences and comments below 🙂
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