Sunday, 17 July 2011

Raw Cashews: Are They Really Really Raw?

There's a controversy about raw cashews in the raw food community.  The majority of cashews packaged and labelled as raw are in fact not raw when using the definition of heating below 116°C.  In order to get that little piece of heaven known as a cashew out of it's thick, hard shell, the entire nut must be heated.  Also the raw oil inside the cashew shell can burn your skin if you're unlucky enough to come in contact with it.
SoooOooo what's a raw food girl to do?

... well go to India of course and pick that cashew right off the tree & eat it raw!


Okay so you don't have to go to India, there are lots of other countries that grow cashews too, but this is my story of truly 100% RAW cashews.

The picture above are some of the cashews I picked.  The place where I was teaching had lots of trees with edibles growing on them - cashews, almond, mango, coconut, chikoo (sapodilla) and guava.  I didn't even realize what was growing on this tree until a local told me and showed me how to get the cashew out.

The large red-yellowish fruit is what they call a cashew apple.  It's sweet, juicy and astringent tasting, meaning it hits the back of your throat with a dry taste.  The apple was okay, but I lived for the flavourful cashews inside the shells.  I found lots of cashew nuts on the ground around the cashew trees.  Monkeys often eat the cashew apples and then throw away the nut.  Crazy monkeys!

Once the cashew's hard shell turns grey it can't be consumed raw.  It will have to be heated over a fire and then cracked open (we did that one night too!).  The green ones, however have a softer shell and can be split open with a knife.


As I mentioned before the oil inside the cashews can burn, so being completely new to opening up cashew shells, I wasn't about to get out my knife and go at it.  Another yoga teacher, a local to the area, did it for me.  He was always careful to wrap a cloth rag around the hand that was holding the cashew to make sure once the shell was open the raw oil wouldn't get onto his skin.  He removed the unripe cashew apple and sliced the nut right down the middle.
   
Isn't it just so cute?  Then using the tip of the knife, he carefully removed the cashew from the shell and placed it inside a napkin to remove the oil.  Once the oil was all soaked up we could eat the nut. 

When my friend first handed me a raw cashew to eat I didn't chow it down immediately.  I was a bit apprehensive because of the raw oil that he said could burn my skin and because the nuts still had a slightly greenish tinge (I know weird, me not wanting to eat something green).  But I decided to be adventurous.  So I took a deep yogic breath and popped it in my mouth. 

I liked the fresh taste immediately.  It was softer than the "raw" cashews you buy here in the stores and had a slightly sweet taste.  It tasted fresh and abundant with living energy.  I realized that what I previously considered a raw cashew was absolutely not raw, at least not as alive as this cashew. 

I would have loooooOooooooved to make a raw dish with these nuts.  Maybe a raw sattvic sauce to drench zuke noodles in or a raw mango cheesecake.  But alas that just wasn't possible.  It would have been too labour intensive to hand split enough cashews.  But also I didn't have access to a blender or food processor.  This was rural India!

After my raw cashew experience I got a lot more adventurous with picking things off the tree and eating it.  If it's good enough for the monkeys ... 

No pesticides, no artificial fertilizers, just living raw goodness!


This is an unripe green mango.  Love these!  You can even eat the skin.  I didn't even bother to wash it first LOL!  It has a much more tart taste than the ripe mangoes.  These green mangoes are used a lot in India to make hot sauce, called pickle.  I ate quite a bit of that too ;)

Now that I'm back home in Canada there will be no more truly raw cashews (or green mangoes for that matter), but I'm okay with that.  After all I'm a yogi, which means I'm flexible. 

4 comments:

Geoff McCabe said...

Great article, thank you. I live in Costa Rica and we have a lot of cashew trees here. I'm creating a permaculture center to support our yoga retreats Anamaya Yoga Center) and was looking for a way to get the cashews out raw, as I suspected that all the "raw" cashews were actually cooked to get the oil off, which is the technique here. So I've been searching for another method. I read somewhere that there's another method, but there were no details... it involves freezing them and shelling them while still frozen. So I'm looking for details about that process. Thanks again for your story.

Montezuma said...

Great article, thank you. I live in Costa Rica and we have a lot of cashew trees here. I'm creating a permaculture center to support our yoga retreats Anamaya Yoga Center) and was looking for a way to get the cashews out raw, as I suspected that all the "raw" cashews were actually cooked to get the oil off, which is the technique here. So I've been searching for another method. I read somewhere that there's another method, but there were no details... it involves freezing them and shelling them while still frozen. So I'm looking for details about that process. Thanks again for your story.

Montezuma said...

Great article, thank you. I live in Costa Rica and we have a lot of cashew trees here. I'm creating a permaculture center to support our yoga retreats Anamaya Yoga Center) and was looking for a way to get the cashews out raw, as I suspected that all the "raw" cashews were actually cooked to get the oil off, which is the technique here. So I've been searching for another method. I read somewhere that there's another method, but there were no details... it involves freezing them and shelling them while still frozen. So I'm looking for details about that process. Thanks again for your story.

Angel said...

Thanks for stopping by Geoff. Your yoga retreat in Costa Rica looks amazing! Good luck with your raw cashew adventure. You could individually split them open like we did here, but that's pretty labor intensive, as I'm sure you can imagine. ^_^

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