Few months ago, my son’s friend and his wife visited us. They are from North Karnataka. When they saw cashew trees and fruits, they were very amused. They said they had never seen it before and didn’t know where cashew grew. So I decided to write this post here. These trees are very common at our place.
Cashew(Anacardium occidentale) is called kaju in Konkani, geru hannu(fruit)/geru beeja(nut)/godambi in Kannada. Cashew grows in the tropical climate.
At our place, we have local variety and hybrid variety of cashews. The local variety trees grow very tall and live for a long time. But the yield is very low. Hybrid trees are very small and live 5-10 years, seeds are larger, yield is more and fetches more revenue. These hybrid varieties need more manure and insecticides. The taste of the fruit is almost same in both varieties.
The plants usually give fruits in summer. We find two colors of cashew fruit – red and yellow. The cashew nut is attached to the bottom of the fruit. As far as I know, this is the only fruit where the seed is outside the fruit. The fruit has a very strong aroma – many people don’t like this because of the strong smell. This can be consumed when it gets ripe. The fruit is usually consumed fresh. When eaten as it is, sometimes it causes itching in the throat. So people usually eat it with a little salt. This fruit is used in some dishes and also juice is made out of it. Because we do not like it’s strong smell, we do not cook it at home.
The ripe fruits are used in gas plants, that is used to make cooking gas. Our neighbors have gobar gas plant where they use these fruits abundantly in summer. In Goa, these fruits are used to make Fenny – an alcoholic drink.
When the fruits get ripe, they are removed from the tree and seeds are separated from them. These seeds are sundried atleast for 3 days and stored. These seeds are taken to factory where they are cut open and inner nut is removed. The outer shell of the seed has a very strong oil and creates blisters on the skin if touched. This is used to give a coating on the boats/house roof as insecticide. The inner nut is the one available readily in the market with or without a reddish skin. The one with the skin remains good for a long time.
In earlier days, we used to burn these seeds in fire, cut open them at home and with inner nuts make laddoos for Gokulashtami and Ganesh Chauti festivals. These laddoos have a very distinct aroma.
Another seasonal delicacy is tender cashew nuts. The tender seeds are cut open and nuts are sold. These tender nuts called bibbe in Konkani are loved by all. These are used in many dishes after removing the outer skin. These can also be consumed as it is after removing skin, they have a very distinct taste.