red cashew fruits hanging from the tree branch

Enjoy Cashews Before They’re Gone – Part 1

The most complicated things about cashews for me growing up was dealing with the shelling process. Nowadays, my challenge is finding a balance between getting a decent price for them and ensuring the company’s labor practices are humane. The US isn’t the main consumer of cashews in the world, but it imports a lot, which may be why cashews are cheaper here than in Panama. That said, I’m not a food history expert—I’m here to talk about my beloved wannabe-nut. It was probably the first I ever ate after I entered this realm we call Earth.

hands holding a bunch of raw cashew seeds still inside the shell

I went to Panama a few weeks ago and also noticed how much more expensive cashews are. Not only that, but I’ve been told there is a crisis with their trees. The future of those trees scare me and it breaks my heart. I encourage anyone who has the chance to taste the fruit where the seed grows from, to try it. It has an astringent taste due to its tannins, so yes, it’ll feel weird on your tongue and throat. But you must have it as a chicha and try baking with it! It also makes delicious marmalade.

yellow and red cashew fruits hanging from the tree branch

The US, as far as I know, imports all of its cashews from different countries such as Vietnam, Brazil, and India. So as many things in this country that we are blessed with even though we don’t grow the fruit for commercial production, we still have access to good quality imported goods, like cashews and even cashew fruit (cashew apple).

If you find yourself a good deal price on cashews, splurge and enjoy! While I don’t eat cashews every month, I consume them more frequently than regular nuts, and my husband has joined me in enjoying this delicious treat.

a foto of raw unsalted cashews inside of a glass jar.

What do you think about cashews? Where you live, can you purchase the fruit fresh or frozen? What’s your favourite way of trying cashews?

Burnt-Toasted Cashews
I grew up getting raw cashews and cashew fruit from my grandparents house in Rio Hato, in the province of Cocle. I remember something we’d gather cashew fruits and then twist the seed out and put them right on the fire. We did this quickly so that we wouldn’t burn with the shell’s acid. We’d set a small fire with wood to burn the cashews and then with a rock break them apart from the burnt skin. I don’t remember ever having more than 5 cashews at a time. They were precious like gold even if we were surrounded by those trees since I had many cousins and uncles and aunts to share with.

pile of smoking burnt cashews on the ground

I was reading how for highly industrialised companies working with cashews they use strong steam which makes sense if you want to keep the cashew raw. I don’t recall ever using it raw because we always burn it to be able to get it and it ended up roasted.

toasted cashews

Now I live in Maryland, I have no cashew trees around me, but I have access to cashews at almost any regular grocery store. They are pricey and that’s ok, as long as it’s because it’s the right thing for the lands who produce it.

I remembered how wonderful the pleasure of eating burnt-toasted cashews when I went to visit my parents in Panama a month ago. I brought a small bag of burnt-toasted cashews I cooked back in Maryland. Though I brought some other goods from the US, nothing brought such joy to my family than going over those cashews I had that were just a leftover snack from our flying trip.

Please do try the on-the-pan burnt-toasted cashew technique, test it with a tiny batch because if you didn’t grow up eating them like the way I mentioned I did during my childhood, I’m not sure you’re going to enjoy it. I’ve offered my cashews to friends and coworkers and they stared at the burnt looking cashews and kindly decline. Let me know what you think if you’ve never had it like this and try it for the first time. Maybe they’re not for you or maybe you unlock a new way to enjoy cashews!

Burnt-Toasted Cashews Recipe

Raw unsalted cashews, at room temperature (enough to cover the bottom of your pan without crowding)
Timer (helps you stay nearby and prevents burning)
Stainless steel pan or any pan that can take heat without having to add oil to it

– Heat a large pan over medium-low heat.
– Once hot, add the cashews. Stir occasionally to prevent pilling. Toast for 3 minutes.
– Reduce heat. Stir the cashews and toast for another 2 minutes. Repeat 2-3 times until they reach a very dark golden brown color. Some will look more burnt than others and that’s ok.
– If you have an electric stove, turn off the burner and leave the cashews in the pan for 2 more minutes. For gas stoves, set the heat to its lowest setting, stir, and leave for 1-2 more minutes.
– Let the cashews cool in the pan, away from heat, for 1-2 hours.
– Once cooled, transfer cashews to a container (jars or resealable bags work well).
– Cashews will stay fresh for several weeks, not in my house since we eat them in two days, but they last week.

NOTE: Start with a small batch if you’re new to toasting cashews. Watch the video for a bit of visual guide. Please let me know if you try this recipe!

I will have a Part 2 and maybe a Part 3 of my Cashew writing series. I’ll keep you posted! Part 2 would include how to use cashews for milk-replacement and Part 3 will be for creams and sauces.

¡a comer!

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