The Cashew trees are starting to fruit now. Before coming to Panama I never knew how cashews grew (called mariñon in Spanish). Now, I have a lot more respect for where they come from and understand why they are more expensive than a lot of other nuts.
The trees themselves are very pretty. I have been told they grow fairly fast (we shall see since I have a few seedlings in my yard now). They don’t get very big though, maybe 10-15 feet and they tend to spread a bit providing some nice shade.
Look at the picture below and you will see some of the fruit, or cashew apples. They are very delicate and don’t ship well at all, which is why you don’t see them for sale, not even here where they grow. If you want some you have to find a tree (or find a cyclists who knows the best trees around town 😀 )
You can see the cashew nut hanging off the bottom of the fruit. Each fruit has only one nut which must be removed from the fruit, and then roasted. There is a toxic substance in the nut which is neutralized by heating or roasting. Then the nut must be broken open and the meat, the edible part, removed. I have had cashews that were roasted in a wood fire and they are wonderful! They have a bit of the flavor of the wood smoke which I really like. If you have the opportunity to buy someone from a street vendor, try them.
The fruit comes in red and yellow but they all taste the same. This must be a red tree because fruit is just starting to turn red, and there were others on the ground that were totally red. You almost need a bucket to take them home. I’ve taken them home in plastic bags but the juice leaks out, so the bag better not have a hole in it. The fruit has a somewhat odd, pungent smell and taste, in my opinion, but I like it. I put the fruit in the blender with enough water to blend, and then put it in the strainer to get the juice separated from the pulp. Then, I add some vanilla and sweetener and pour it over ice, or add it to smoothies with other fruit. The fruit can also just be chopped up and cooked with some sugar (or sweetener of choice) and it’s wonderful. I’ve only tried it once this way so this year I’m going to try and cook some of my own.
The photo above is interesting because it has the ripe, red fruit in the middle. To the left of the fruit is a nut with a fruit just barely starting to develop above it. To the right you can see another green fruit that is starting to plump out a bit.
These guys are in Trinidad roasting cashews but the process is the same. I hear you don’t want to be downwind because the smoke has the irritating substances in it as well. They sure are good when they are done though!