Ciao Cashews Nuts
Why I've said good-bye to cashews. I used to love these nuts, but now I don't touch them-literally.
Years ago, when I first started coming down to Costa Rica, I was introduced to the cashew tree, fruit and nut-which is attached to the bottom of the fruit. My neighbor at the time had a tree in her yard. I had always enjoyed the nut, but I knew nothing about it. The fruit and nuts are in season when I am in Costa Rica and they are very prolific around my village.
One day, as I was enjoying a swim at my neighbor's pool I decided to investigate these beautiful fruits and nuts. I figured that since they were such a widely available product that they must be harmless. Yikes! Was I ever mistaken! (Nudge, nudge this is true of many, many widely available products).
I decided to open up the cashew nut to see it in its natural state. Grabbing a nearby rock, I cracked the shell open. Some of the juice squirted onto my belly and my son's belly too. I fingered the gooey substance surrounding the nut. It felt unctuous. Then, I had to sneeze and I touched my nose and face with my cashew covered hand. Five minutes later the pain began! What a horrible burning sensation that was. Everywhere the liquid touched was screaming with pain. Next came the inflammation, swelling and finally oozing liquid which lasted for many weeks. My face looked like Mohammed Ali had used it for practice. I thought I would be scarred for life, but surprisingly and happily the scars eventually faded and there's no trace left.
I have since learned that the nut is covered with a highly caustic acid. Cashews must be either chemically or heat treated simply to be removed from the shell. Cashew workers must wear gloves, goggles and even masks to avoid breathing in the toxic fumes which will burn the lungs. This is definitely not a natural food for humans or many other creatures either for that matter! Apparently, "raw" cashews/butter can be found in health food stores, but I don't trust that they're truly raw or that they haven't been nutritionally harmed to make them edible-so I've said good-bye to cashew nuts.
BTW, it is for this reason too that I've given up olives as well. My grand parents had an olive farm in Italy and I can attest that raw olives are very bitter. They must be treated in some way-usually with salt-to remove the bitterness. Ian, on vegsource posted of a Peruvian olive that is supposedly only sun-dried. But, quite frankly, I'd rather enjoy some sweet delicious fruit than waste my money and probably my health on an expensive product that apparently still tastes bitter and is still very high in fat.
Cashew fruit, on the other hand, is a different matter. Maranon, as they are called in Costa Rica are very popular, especially in fruit drinks. So far, I find them too astringent to truly enjoy. But many people say that combined with another sweet fruit like dates in a smoothie they are delicious. I have yet to try them this way, but I will eventually since I have a tree growing on my property and would hate for the good fruit to go to waste.