Learning from Cashew Nut in Mozambique

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How much do you know about cashew nuts?

You might be shrugging your shoulder or tilting head, thinking why I am asking this.

To me, it was nothing but a part of nuts family (almond, walnut, peanut, etc.), and just learning a bit of this nut was quite interesting (at least to me). In this post, I will share some facts about cashew, which expanded my world. Probably there are not many people passionate about cashew nuts, but it can be a good example to show that any trivial thing can become a part of learning, which lets you see things differently.

Why cashew nut?

Nuts have been my life line for the last 5 years since I started eating yogurt, fruits and nuts every morning, instead of full meal breakfast I used to have before. When I came to Mozambique, I found that cashew nuts were sold everywhere, be it at stores or on the street.

Diet supplement:
Since I started skipping my dinner for various reasons, I learned about 16h fasting diet for a good health. It seems this method allows to eat nuts, so I thought at least I could eat nuts at night.

In a nutshell, it is one of the healthy ingredients. Cashews are low in sugar and rich in fiber, heart-healthy fats, and plant protein. They’re also a good source of copper, magnesium, and manganese — nutrients important for energy production, brain health, immunity, and bone health (source)

Secret ingredient of curry
Also, cashews can be used for Indian curry. You soak cashews into the water, and then put them into the blender with tomato sauce and water to be part of the curry.

What is cashew nuts

First of all, Cashew nuts are not technically nuts (source: Cashews and almonds aren’t technically nuts. So what are they?). They are drupes which are part of fruits (outside part containing shell covering a seed on the inside).

Unexpected origin

Can you picture the origin of cashew nut? I had absolutely no idea, and my guess was cashew nut (the one we buy) hanging on the tree brunch like peanut.

Well, that guess was half right as it is hanging on the tree, but half wrong, as it comes with a fruit called cashew apple. The cashew nuts you might get at store are the seeds of that fruit.

Here is my story of first discovery. When I went to a rural side of Mozambique, the local host brought a bucket of fruits saying it was their local gift “cashew”. When I saw them, I thought it was just random fruit that existed only in that place, and didn’t associate with the cashew nut I eat all the time. The shape and colors are totally different (before roasting) and I was so used to the processed version, which is the main problem of the modern convenient world! (you only see the processed result instead of the origin, be it meat, vege, nuts, etc.)

The fruit looks like below (the size of my thumb)

Taste of the fruit is pretty good (between sweet and acid, and unlike crunchy cashew nut, the fruit is very soft).

Why is it so expensive?

I know it’s good, but at the same time quite expensive. It is because processing cashews is dangerous and mostly done manually, which is time-consuming. Also, it is mostly imported. This video shows the difficult and complex process to explain why it is so expensive.

Also, this short video shows how to roast it.

It is originated in Brazil, and taken in tropical places including some countries in Africa (Mozambique inclusive), as shown in the below.

Figure of raw cashew nut yields, selected countriesFigure: Raw cashew nut yields, selected countries (source)

Cashews in Mozambique

Mozambique has been renowned for its cashews since the early 1900s. Conditions are ideal to produce the best-tasting cashews. For much of the 20th century, Mozambique was the world’s leading producer of cashew nut. Africa’s first industrial cashew processing plant was established in Mozambique in 1960. Mozambique quickly built a reputation for quality production and efficient processing. However, with the onset of a 20-year civil war starting in the late 1970s, cashew processing declined. Smallholder farmers still continued to produce cashews, but not at the level that was once achieved (source)

Appearing in the primary school exam

I was surprised to see such a picture (the language test for early grade primary education, asking to tick the box which includes letter, not the image like cashew apple).

This clearly shows that this fruit is prevalent in the local context (if I were to take this exam, I might get confused, although I know it is nothing like letters).

Apart from exam, people sell cashews on the street as below, so it’s quite prevalent part of the local context.

For the last years, I have been buying online a pack of mix nuts (such as below), but I had no idea about the origin, looks, taste of fruit, process of harvesting and roasting, why it is so expensive, etc. Observing the process with 5 senses (smell, sound, looks, touch and taste) was great learning opportunities, and I believe the world is full of learning like this.

In a nutshell (you knew it would come!) any small thing can be a new learning, which leads to expanding your world, which lets you see the world differently.

The learning of this time 

Learning the origin, process and local context of cashew nuts with 5 senses led to expand my world. This kind of small learning can exist everywhere, so it is important to keep antenna wide open.

Thank you for reading this article. Have a great learning!


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