Saturday, May 22, 2010


In Earl’s earlier post, you’ll see a photo of Moris & me. And I bet you do not know what we are doing. If you look carefully, you’ll see I am holding something in my hand. In Kiswahili it’s a ‘korosho’ – a cashew nut! And Moris was showing us the traditional way of roasting cashews.

Did you know that in the mid-1970’s Tanzania and Mozambique were the main global producers of cashew nuts? According to the Agricultural Council of Tanzania (, Tanzania was producing 145,000 metric tons of raw nuts in 1974 and in 1998 Tanzania was still producing 121,000 metric tons. Unfortunately, nowadays the production has been below the 1998 peak.

Tanzania has been mainly exporting raw nuts and in 2006 only 20% were processed locally. This is because of the difficulty of cashew processing. Did you know that cashews are in the same family as poison ivy & poison sumac? The cashew plant contains powerful chemical irritants and handling and eating raw cashews will cause the familiar itchy skin reaction in sensitive people. However, the irritants are found in the shell oil, not in the nuts themselves.

According to Don Glass on "A Moment of Science"
(, this is why they’re sold shelled, but why are they roasted? Roasting at high temperature destroys the shell oil, so commercially sold nuts will not trigger a reaction. Cashew nuts that are still in the shell or that are shelled and roasted at home at lower temperatures may be contaminated with the oil, so, shelling raw cashews is about as much fun as handling poison ivy. Isn't that interesting!

Well, in the bottom-center of the collage, Benjamin, a neighbor, is preparing the open fire. Actually, I think at that moment, the cashew nuts are on fire in the pot! On Benjamin's left, there is a photo of the cashew apple as it is picked from the tree. Attached to the bottom of the cashew apple is a kidney-shaped shell that contains the cashew nut. Above Benjamin’s photo, you’ll see Moris & his wife, Lucy, roasting the cashews in the smokey pot. The little girl in the pink dress on the left is their daughter, Dorith. Unfortunately, Exsavery, their son, missed this photo op. Then there’s the close-up of Moris & me cracking the nutshells. What looks like a pile of charcoal on the ground is actually a pile of charred cashew nutshells. We gobbled up the fresh roasted cashews you see in the container. Yum!

Earl & I love cashews and we are delighted that we are living along the Swahili Coast where fresh cashews are a year-round treat!

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