When you see cashew nuts what do you think? That they make for excellent snacks? That you can not eat the whole plate even if you wish to? That the kaju bafri (an Indian cashew nut dessert) tastes sinfully awesome? I too thought about cashew on similar lines, till I visited a cashew processing factory in Goa. My thoughts about cashew are never going to be the same again.
After plucking it off the tree, once the nut is separated from the cashew apple it is left for drying for approximately eight hours. I have to admit I had never seen so many cashews at one place ever before. As the shell of the cashew is still intact it cannot be eaten.
The dried cashews are then put inside a boiler. The amount of heat this machine generates can be believed only after experiencing it. Belching smoke, it went about its task with the mechanical efficiency it was designed for!
The machine spits it out after separating the shell from the nut. After this stage human beings once again come into the picture prominently.
The shells and the nuts are separated by workers and not by machine. I found a lot of women working in this unit.
While I was at the cashew farm and handling the cashew apple, I was told to be careful as the juice stains are hard to get rid of. And yet people separate the nuts and the shell for hours getting their hands deeply stained. That is how they make money! They separate it with a sharp needle like thing, where any mistake would lead to injuries to the hands.
The women were so adept at separating the two that their hands moved at a frantic pace and they hardly ever looked up from their task. She was different. She gave me an eye contact with a shy smile. I requested her for a picture for which she happily agreed.
I am sure if I did such messy work, I would not smile so readily. And did I mention the heat? The whole factory was hot. We complained incessantly about it and breathed a deep sigh of relief when we got out. And yet people go in there willingly every working day! And they smile at strangers with cameras.
Once the nut is separated it goes through further processing to dry it out. After that it is all about sorting the cashews. It is sorted, sorted and then sorted again and again and again! At the first stage the sorting was done by machines. The whole nuts would fall in one tray, the once broken into twos in another. Then there were two more trays, one for the nuts broken into four and the other for some that were crushed to the bits.
Then came the hand sorting for the nuts that were whole. You can count at least 7 vessels in the picture as the lady is sorting them according to as many aspects. Some of it involved sorting it by color.
Then the cashews were sorted by a machine one more time. The holes on the rotator were of different sizes and the machine after picking them according to size drops them into different trays. Did you ever realized the amount of work that went into bringing the cashews to your table?
Finally after a lot of sorting the cashews got dropped into a giant bag, they were weighed and then sealed at a machine nearby.
We were told that all the cashews from this particular batch were for export. We had to wear aprons, head gear and foot gear to enter the sorting part of the factory. We were happy to discard then as we got out, the heat was something to reckon with inside the premises.
As I finally stood beneath this giant tree, breathing in deeply, I was sure of one thing, I will never take cashew nuts for granted again! I know the amount of work that goes behind the scenes to bring it to my table.
Secondly I would like to remember the cheerfulness of people working in what was the ‘hot’ factory for me. I don’t think I can contemplate spending a whole day inside a cashew processing factory. This is a note to self then, to remember the factory and its cheerful women, the next time I wish to go on ‘life is so unfair’ trip because of a trifle that irritated me.
PS. I was invited by Goa Tourism on this trip.
When we arrived at Devsar Farms near Bicholim in Goa I immediately felt relaxed. In front of me were rows of rubber trees. I could see green mangoes hanging nearby and a slender cashew tree added to the allure in the immediate vicinity. The parking spot for our vehicle was a giant banyan tree. My usual concrete filled vision found all this extremely soothing.
Farms and green places immediately remind me of home, in the small town of Gorakhpur. My father used to work in railways and I grew up among many trees. However, all of us now live in Gurgaon. When I was young having a green home was business as usual and now I hardly get time to I get nostalgic.
As we were attending Goa’s Coconut and Cashew Festival 2015 it was appropriate that the itinerary included a visit to a cashew farm. For me this was a first as well. We were there at the low season, most of the cashews were plucked but I still got to see a few. After picking up the fruit, the nut is separated from the apple. The nut goes for further processing and the cashew apple is used to make Feni, the famous local alcoholic drink!
Our guide for the day was Mr. Joshi who is the owner of the farm. He was quite happy to show us around, even though the day was hot. He encouraged us to try out any fruit that caught our fancy straight from the tree.
I was game to sip directly from the apple after the cashew nut was taken out. The juice is sweet with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Some find the smell of the fruit overbearing. For me it was not a problem. I was warned to be careful with the juice as its stains are permanent.
Mr. Joshi told us that representatives of cashew factories were happy to come to the farm and buy off the product. Even though the cashew was the main star of the visit there were other attractions too.
Before the visit to the Devsar Farm Kokum was a flavor for me on a packaged juice. And then I got to eat the fruit after plucking it straight off the tree! Kokum belongs to Mangostien family. I loved its tangy/sweet taste. Its skin can be dried and used to make juices and kadhi.
I am religiously collecting the skin of the fruits that I got to carry home. The generous Mr. Joshi gave us a bagful of Kokums to carry home as well. As I predicted there itself, my daughter is enjoying them a lot, she likes tangy things.
This fruit picking session so reminded me of my childhood when the only way I would eat Litchi was straight after plucking from the tree, nestled comfortably in a branch, with juice dripping down my elbows!
As we were walking back to our car, I asked Mr. Joshi if the farm was open to visitors? He said not yet but there were plans to open it later. We also talked about the possibility of letting the tourists get involved with cashew picking and he said they were quite open to the idea!
When we later regrouped for a late lunch at Calangute Beach, I did realize how hot the day actually was. But I was so enjoying myself at the farm that the heat never bothered me there. The visit to the Devsar Farm was one of the highlights of my trip.
PS. I was invited by Goa Tourism on this trip.
I started my India travel blog, Travel Tales from India in 2005. In 2016 I realized Travel Tales from India and Abroad better reflected my writings. I love to walk and ride in metros around the world. I have not been everywhere, I am not even close, but it is on my list. I also quit my job as a professor in 2015, it was a happening year! I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur ages ago!
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