I really like the cashew nut tree; it’s absolutely lovely. First, it gets its new leaves in a dark red, really pretty against the shiny green of the old leaves. Then it gets an inflorescence of fragrant pink flowers – the scent is powerful and can fill an entire yard with perfume. Then come the cashew apples – crisp and tangy – with a funny little half-circle at the bottom: the cashew nut.
No other nut lives outside the enclosure of the fruit. The cashew is an oddity of nature. How man ever decided to try this nut is beyond me. The only thing we can think of is that a forest fire devastated an area and left the husk of the nut open. After enjoying his first ever roasted cashew nut, man (more likely woman) decided that roasting the nut would yield food. Because, believe me, you don’t want to try to open that husk without first either heating or freezing it (hence the forest fire scenario, since we seldom get freezing temperatures in Costa Rica).
I tried to de-husk a nut once – only once – by hitting it with a hammer. I thought I had protected myself adequately, but I ended up with what looked like small burns up my arm. I learned that lesson very quickly: do not try to open the nut without preparation. What preparation? One Web site I visited suggested freezing the nut first. Another said that you should fry the whole nut in oil, and another said that the oven was the best place for the cashew. A long, slow bake to defuse the toxins and then you could crack it open.
Well, the ones I froze turned to mush, and I was afraid of the frying method since a friend said she had tried it and ended up with burns. Hmmmm. Sounds like the oven method next. Unfortunately, I have no more nuts to try this with . . . have to wait for a harvest.
All that aside, I still think the cashew is a lovely tree. The foliage is shiny, the new foliage is a great contrast, and the apples, although tart, are delightfully crisp and tangy. Plus, the toucans can tolerate the toxic husk and seeds and will visit you to enjoy the cashew that you find too much trouble to harvest. If you have chickens, you might find them feasting on fallen cashew apples. They are quite content with them.
As for me, until the next harvest period, I will enjoy my cashew nuts, shelled, roasted, and salted by somebody else – anybody but me.