Wednesday, June 03, 2020

cashew -- ¡salud!

Not everything on my trip to Manzanillo yesterday was a disturbing tale.

Because all of the parking spaces at Telmex yesterday were chock-a-block, I had to park around the corner from the office. And I am glad I did.

Several businesses, including Telmex and the Nissan dealership, are tucked into a tiny corner of Manzanillo's industrial area. Getting there is a game of playing dodgeball with lines of semis.

A few steps into my walk to join the telephone line, I noticed something on the sidewalk. At first, I thought it was a chili. Bright red with a thick stem.

I should not have made that mistake. It was a fruit, but of a far more exotic nature -- and one of my favorite American products. It was a cashew apple -- or, as it is called here marañón
. We discussed my interest in cashews last May in cashew -- gesundheit.

I say "American" product because the cashew tree is one of the few fruit trees around here that are native to the Americas. Unlike mangoes coconuts, and limes that are from Asia, cashew trees were native to the Caribbean islands, northern South America, and Central America when the Spanish arrived.

The Spanish and Portuguese shipped the trees to their various colonies and trading partners around the world until Vietnam, Nigeria, and India are the three largest growers of cashews. The American country with the highest production is Brazil. At number 14.

If you had asked me a year or two ago where the cashew originated, I would have said India. There is a reason for that. I use a lot of cashews in my cooking. And the Spanish name for cashews is "Nueces de la India" -- right there on the front of the nut jar. Indian nuts. But I would have been wrong. They are 100% American.

Harvesting cashews is not an easy process. For every nut, the full fruit must be picked and then separated into two parts. Because the fruit has a short shelf life, it is usually eaten locally.

The big money is in the nut that requires the type of extensive processing we associate with macadamias before it ends up in your pantry. And one day we will talk about that.

What struck me as strange is that the tree producing the cashew apples rotting on that sidewalk, is not located in a Nicaraguan jungle. It is shoehorned into a sidewalk in an industrial park. 

It is almost a miracle that it can survive surrounded by a sea of concrete -- busily producing seeds that will fall futiliy onto infertile ground. Driven to reproduce; but doomed to live a solitary life until it is cut down or dies of old age.

I suppose we are not that different. The tree and those of us who have managed to survive enough years to tell tales of The War to a younger generation who has no idea which war we are talking about.

But we continue putting out our fruit. Doing what drives us. What keeps us alive.

And that is nothing to sneeze at.


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