Belize Celebrates the Noble Cashew
Crooked Tree Village’s annual Cashew festival and Agricultural Show, which took place last weekend (May 16 – 19) reminded us of the long and fruitful (OK, pun intended) relationship between Belize and the cashew.
The festival celebrates all things cashew, and featured products such as that delightful cashew wine, as well as cakes, pies, pastries, syrups, vinegar and all sorts of other spinoffs.
Belizeans have enjoyed the cashew in its many forms for generations, and probably nowhere as much as Crooked Tree, where the industry is at the heart of the local economy.
For those of you who think cashews come in tins or jars, salted as an accompaniment to beer and television viewing, the sight of a cashew tree, Anacardium occidentale, in full bloom would be a revelation, as would the sight of the single curved nut at the bottom of the cashew fruit. Although the nuts are justly valued, it is the fruit that produces the many products such as jams and wine.
You get a real appreciation of cashew nut consumption when you see how much tree and fruit goes into supporting each nut. To yield one jar of nuts you’d go through quite a large pile of fruit, and a toxic sap with a skin irritant similar to poison ivory surrounds the nuts.
The shell of the cashew nut is also valuable, producing compounds that are used in industrial products such as lubricants, epoxies and paints, and other parts of the tree are used for traditional remedies for snake bites, fungal infections and other ailments.
Cashew trees are evergreens originally native to Brazil, but the tree is now cultivated in tropical regions worldwide, such as Vietnam, Nigeria, Indonesia, India, the Ivory Coast and other locales where it is an important export crop.
Here in Belize, the cashew is grown primarily for local consumption, and you’ll notice the tree in many back and front yards around the country, with families and villages having their own recipes for various uses. The wine and liqueurs are something of an acquired taste, but once you get used to the unique flavour, it grows on you. It’s not unusual to see older people sitting around enjoying a drop of their own home brews.
This was the 29th annual festival in Crooked Tree, which celebrates the blossoming of the trees, usually between March and June. When the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary was established and the Crooked Tree Lagoon protected, with fishing, logging and other practices banned, the villagers looked to other sources of income and the good old dependable cashew tree was there to help out.
The festival kicked off Friday, the 16th with Cashew Tree Pageant with 9-year-old Kiara Tillett selected as the Cashew Queen, followed by a weekend full of music, dancing and other activities.
A fine celebration for a lovely tree that has brought joy to millions around the world.
All Hail the Noble Cashew!