Thursday, July 12, 2012

And Now to Teach You, About the Cashew!

                             Whatchu Know About Caju?!?!?!




      Brazil is a land of many wonderous and delicious fruits. To try and introduce even a fourth of them to you, I would need about a month's worth of blog time. Maybe in the future I'll follow up on that actually, but for now, no. I want to reintroduce something to you that you are already aware of, but might not know everything about. The cashew fruit.
      Called Caju (kah-joo) in Portuguese, it is made of more than you might realize. Yes, cashew is not just a nut. It also consists of a fruit! When I lived in the United States and my husband first tried to explain to me that a cashew nut came from a fruit, I refused to believe him. He kept googling it as Caju and showing me pictures of it, but I thought there had to be some kind of language barrier going on and that he was mistaking it for something else. But alas, within the first few months of living in Brazil I discovered that he had been right all along! Sure enough, while driving on the highway Northeast through the state of Goias, we passed tree after tree containing yellow, orange, and red cashew fruits. We stopped at a few points and got out of the car to pick some. One of the things I love most about Brazil is the fact that you can eat the best fruits mother nature has to offer, completely free! Thousands of different fruit tress are growing at any given time all over the city and they are as easy to consume as picking them off the tree and rinsing them off.

       Caju, or Cashew fruit comes in tiny to jumbo sizes, depending on the sub species, and it is extremely delicate. I always try to describe it's texture and taste to my friends and family, but there is no taste or texture of anything in the world I can compare it to, so it's difficult. The skin is waxy, yet so delicate and soft that if it falls to the ground from the tree, it's ruined. If you don't handle it with the gentlest of care, it tears and tons of juice comes out. Yet at the same time, it is so fibrous, that you cannot take a clean bite out of it without smashing it as you try to remove the piece you bit into. The best way to eat them without destroying your clothing is to cut it into little slices first, then eat that way. The juice is a cloudy white to yellow color and if it gets onto your clothes, it most likely will leave a dark stain that does not come out. The juice is kind of a citrus, as it is has 300 times more vitamin C than an orange. Super healthy. It also has less calories than an orange. Just about 40 calories a fruit. While an orange has at least 75 calories. The taste of the just is almost like a sweeter, milkier version of grapefruit, maybe mixed with orange juice. It's got a bite to it also. I love it.
       The actual cashew nut is what the fruit starts off as. We now have a Caju tree in the back yard so I have been able to watch the growing process. They start as a bud. The bud grows into a teeny tiny green cashew nut,and then the fruit itself begins to form as a bulbous hat on top of the nut. The fruit starts off green then turns either orange, yellow, or red as it fills up with water.

There are tons of different sub species of this fruit so sometimes you can find tiny little mini cashew fruits and nuts, while other times, HUGE juicy ones. The nuts are NOT to be eaten fresh off the tree. They actually contain a toxin which will make you extremely sick, though your experience tasting it would be so horrid that I'm pretty sure you would spit it out before swallowing it. The fresh nuts off of a cashew tree must undergo a lot of preparation before they can even be considered a "raw" nut, so you get the idea. My husband and I tried to save up the nuts from our fruits last year and roast them according to instructions we found online. Yeah, didn't work out for us. I will leave that to the professionals. It was a messy, nasty, and stinky experience. If you ever wonder what makes cashews so expensive, just know that you are better off just paying the high price for them yourself already prepared than if you were to attempt it on your own.
     If you live in Brazil, then I demand you try these immediately if you have not already. Well, actually, you can only try them when they are in season. Unless you're getting them from a greenhouse. They generally are available June through September, and I don't think they even grow in most regions of Brazil. I think you can only find them in the mid eastern areas of Brazil. They are extremely hard to ship as they are so delicate. They also do not last very long once you pick them because of their extremely high water content. Keeping them in the fridge can help, though. If you live in Brazil, try asking around to find out about who you could get these from if they are not a local option. If you can't eat one, you can always drink one!
This Collared Lizard was napping on a full belly after engorging himself on a Caju fruit that had gotten trapped in our tree in the backyard. 

      No matter where you live in the world, you can still find cashew fruit or fruit pulp. If you don't live in Brazil and are fortunate enough to have a Brazilian store nearby, excellent! You can drop inn and ask them for Cashew juice or nectar! They probably even have the pulp. With pulp you can make the delicious cremes which use condensed milk for a yummy smoothie treat. If you don't have a Brazilian store nearby, which most of you do not, try a Mexican store or International market. Even Whole Foods might carry it. If you are looking for it in English it will be called Cashew juice/nectar. I see it mostly sold in small individual serving size juice boxes. The juice is delicious, good for you, and super low in calories in comparison to other fruits of it's type. If you don't feel like venturing out for it, I found a link to a site here that you can order online from and get your cashew juice sent to your front door. So if you really want to try it, you can! It is an excellent choice for smoothies, and is really excellent for your health. Among some of the things this fruit can do is prevent colds, aid in dental health, and fight acne. It's also a nice change for those who are faithful orange juice drinkers.
     My father in law enjoys using cashew fruit slices or caju juice as a "chaser" when he's enjoying a glass of Brandy. Not my cup o tea, but I guess it's got something for everyone.

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