Let’s start the week productive and since it’s the hot season of tropical fruits in India, I am sharing on how to roast cashews today. I am also talking a bit about the cashew fruit, which is better known as caju is Goa, India.
This post is meant to educate how to roast small quantities of raw cashews in the outdoors and you will understand why further below.
Cashews have turned, in the last few years, into a prime snack time choice for health conscious people in the western world. In India and generaly speaking the east, cashew nuts have always been regarded as a small luxury and people use them in sweets and curries.
While cashew “nuts” have been very expensive and were rather rare some 10+ years ago, this somehow changed and we ended up with more choices of acquiring a few grams of precious cashews in our local super stores.
Former Portuguese colonies would call the cashew fruit (yes there is a cashew fruit!) and cashews their day to day staple, the rest of the world remained oblivious to it’s existence for a long time, due to the high rates in the supermarkets.
This started to change in the past 10 years when demand couldn’t be fulfilled and the world decided to commercialize cashews en masse so that the western world could have a “bite”, while reducing the buying rate of the luxury nut extremely. This may sound good to you, but there is a problem with that.
You see, the cashew nut” has a special shell which has toxic properties in the roasting process and you need to roast to get the hard outer shell of the main seed/nut inside. So while roasting small quantities is not a problem at all, this changes when people work, badly equipped and without gloves, to roast massive amounts of cashews while being paid almost nothing.
Yes there is a dark side to the cashew nut production and yes it should be addressed to alleviate the peoples living conditions in India. After all, a lot of people are depending on the export of cashews and they make a living with it.
Buy Fair-trade Cashews if you enjoy cashews!
Cashews are healthy too, so we shouldn’t just forget about these special nutritious natural snack time treats completely.
Local people in Goa still roast small quantities of cashew nuts in the outdoors in the evenings. The traditionally roasted cashews have a very intense flavor, which can’t be compared to the store bought cashews which are available in Europe.
Most of the former Portuguese tropical colonies roast cashews when they are in season which is now, from March to June. This includes Brazil in South America, Mozambique in Africa and South East Asian States such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Philippine.
There is more to the Cashew, in fact did you know that there is a bright orange/yellow fruit? Well, I was quite intrigued when I saw it in real time, but more about that further below.
Cashews actually originated in South America and only thanks to the much traveling Portuguese conquerors was it introduced to the tropical Indian coastline state Goa. You might recall how I had explained in my Spice Garden post how Vasco da Gamma and his lot had ended up here in Goa, India.
The cashew tree thrives in tropical climate therefore the cultivation is still limited to countries near the equator. On top of that it takes a while to grow these fruits, in fact they grow only once a year, so that the nuts (which are, in the botanic society, considered seeds) can be harvested, dried and roasted for the commercial sale.
So, how to roast cashews?
It makes sense to collect the nuts and to roast them yourself at home (if you have a garden or veranda or something similar and of course if the raw un-shelled nuts are available in your surrounding).
I had gone to the Mapusa market to buy a kg of raw Cashew nuts (about 100 INR = ~1,50 €). On top of that I got a few proper whole Cashew fruits from my neighbors tree with the seed/nut still firmly stuck on the fruit, so that you get an idea what the fruit looks like.
As you can see in the picture the orange/yellow Cashew fruit is on top and the nut in the shell in hanging downwards.
How to roast Cashews? The Traditional Goan roasting of raw Cashews
So, now let’s get to the point to where we will prepare our green cashew seed pods for the process of extracting crunchy and freshly roasted nuts.
First of all you need to keep the green seeds to dry in the sun for a few days. We kept ours about 5 days in the hot Indian summer sun before my husband decided that they were about right to be roasted. The seeds are ready to be roasted when they loose their green color and have turned brown/grey by the sun rays.
Learn how to roast cashews below in the instructions.
- a bunch of Green raw but sun dried Cashews
- log of wood
- Don't roast cashews on your own if you have never worked with fire outdoors!
- To roast the cashews you need to do that outside in a garden area. Keep some sand on the floor and spread it and place the wooden log on top of it and put fire . Please be careful when you do this. Keep a fire extinguisher around just in case for the worst situation!
- The log should just catch a bit fire so that it turns into embers without a flame. Spread the embers a bit on the sand area and place the dried raw nuts in-between. For the first time just throw a few into the embers so that you get a feel for it because the nuts can completely burn from inside very quickly.
- Keep on mixing the nuts with the surrounding embers and sand. Smoke will appear which is normal and keep on mixing. The nuts are ready when you can hear them sizzle. All that will take about a minute so as I mentioned above be careful because they can really burn fast!
- Once you think they are ready, take them out to cool. Then open them, discard the shell and store the seeds in a airtight container. You can add salt or spices to them for flavor and enjoy them as snack or use them in baked good or curries.
How to prepare a Cashew Fruit?
The Cashew fruit, also known as caju in Goa, has a purpose as well. You can eat it! The surprising part of the fruit is that it is tasting rather super delicious. I would describe the aroma and flavor as a mixture between Mango, Green Chili and Jackfruit and with a hint of acidic notes.
I am not sure why the fruit has never been commercialized in the world, compared to the mango. The reason might be because the fruit pulp tends to turn mushy really fast and is therefore not suitable for transportation.
If you would see this fruit in your local grocery market, would you actually know how to cut and prepare a cashew fruit?
Yes, the fruit is tricky and when looking at the cashew fruit, it gives you the impression that the fruit is a plastic replica, yet in fact it’s a very fleshy and juicy fruit full of flavors.
Below I explain how to prepare a cashew fruit.
- Fresh firm Cashew fruits either yellow or orange.
- Take a Cashew fruit in your hand. You can remove the seed/nut first then cut off the top part of the fruit where the seed was attached too. This part of the fruit is rather astringent and should be removed if you want to avoid throat itching sensations. (just like the pineapple center)
- Keep aside the raw green seed/nut nut for the roasting process and cut your edible part of the fruit into bite size pieces.
- You can indulge it already at this point. Goans sprinkle some salt on top and keep the fruit in the sun for a short time to take out some of the fruit liquids. It gives a bit of a flavor but it's not required, in fact I just prefer to eat the fruit raw. Of course it can be processed further into other delicacies such as Chutneys and Pickles.
The Cashew fruit can be turned into condiments and other delicacies. It has high acidic amounts and therefore cashew fruits are used to prepare vinegar.
In Goa, there is a popular traditional alcohol made of the Cashew fruit called Caju Fenni. The fruit is mashed, fermented and double distilled before the fruity alcohol is sold in the local markets. You can see what the traditional distillation looks like here. It’s basically a Schnapps variation.
More exotic fruits:
- Hog Plum
- Chunna Berry (Ziziphus Rugosa)
- Kantam Berry (Karonda)
- Jambul Berry
- Bora Berry
Dear reader, have you ever eaten a cashew fruit?
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